Portrait of President George Washington

Rembrandt Peale; George Washington, 1824-1860; Carnegie Museum of Art: Bequest of Mrs. B. F. Jones III

Crash Course: The Face of Democracy–Presidential Portraiture Then and Now


Adults: $36 (Members: $30; Students: $18)

Gear up to vote by taking a look back! Explore the history of presidential portraits and what they can tell us about our nation’s highest office. Artists and politicians from George Washington to today, have continued to define and redefine the iconography and public identity of America’s chief public office. Following the ratification of the US Constitution, it was often left to elected officials to demonstrate how the nation’s democratic principles should function in practice. The norms and customs that they adopted were often tailored to signal the novelty and practicality of the newly-formed American system. Discover the fascinating examples of this process by examining familiar, fantastical, and occasionally bizarre, images of the presidents.

About the instructor:
Dr. Isaac King specializes in early American portraiture, with a focus on issues of authenticity and authority in the portraits of George Washington. He received his PhD from the University of Pittsburgh and currently teaches at Washington and Jefferson College.

About Crash Course

Crash Course is an ongoing series of topic-specific art history courses hosted by Carnegie Museum of Art. Past courses have focused on artists' depictions of urban industry, Renaissance and Baroque art, and many others.