That “George” Space on the Wall

The portraits of George Washington are so familiar, so iconic, that they do not even need to be in focus. Take for example the comparison of portraits below in a photo I took at the New Britain Museum of American Art last February 22nd:

George Pix

On the left, the portrait of George Washington, (1800-05) is a reverse painting on glass. The photo next to it captures the spirit of the first; the shape of the hair and the extended jaw (caused by those famous dentures, perhaps?) is an echo, and the viewer is left to reconstruct  what is so familiar.

We must imagine a flush of pink cheek, a long prominent nose, combined with that piercing gaze, captured by painters in so many other portraits….as we fill in that “George” space on the wall.


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