Museums at Washington and Lee University: Online Exhibits

George Washington in the Museums' Collections

In 1772, artist Charles Willson Peale, then living in Maryland, painted the first life portrait of George Washington. This was prior to the American Revolution, during which Washington served as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, and well before he became the first President of the new United States of America. Numerous other international artists, including sculptor Jean-Antoine Houdon and painters Gilbert Stuart and John Trumbull, followed in Peale's footsteps, creating images of Washington as soldier and stateman, from both life and from imagination.

In May 2023 a small exhibit titled Parlor Portraits: George and Martha Washington opened in the Reeves Museum of Ceramics. It briefly explains the origin and purpose of that first life portrait of Washington, which was gifted to the university in 1897 by G. W. Custis Lee, its 12th president and great-great grandson of Martha Washington.

This online exhibit was created to accompany that installation. It features many additional works in the collections of the Museums at W&L that depict Washington. The most significant paintings, sculptures, and engravings are on display throughout campus and are featured in the first pages of the online exhibit. Over time, more works from the museum collections, both on and off view, will be added to this ongoing project.


Patricia A. Hobbs, Senior Curator of Art