Stuart, Jane (1812–1888)

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Stuart, Jane (1812–1888)

American artist who is best known for her copies of her father's famous paintings, one of which is hung in the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Boston. Born in 1812; died in 1888 in Newport, Rhode Island; youngest of the four daughters of Gilbert Stuart (1755–1828, famous portraitist of George Washington) and Charlotte (Coates) Stuart (b. around 1768); sister of Anne Stuart ; self-trained by assisting her father in his painting studio; never married.

Born in 1812, Jane Stuart was one of ten children, and the fourth daughter, of Gilbert Stuart, the renowned portraitist of George Washington. Her mother Charlotte Coates Stuart was the daughter of a Berkshire, England, physician. Although she gained the desire to paint from her famous father, Jane learned her art by surreptitiously observing his formal training of other artists. Moody and abrasive, Gilbert felt that she had sufficient training as his assistant without further schooling, and relegated her to grinding his colors and filling in his backgrounds. Even with the absence of formal instruction, Jane Stuart demonstrated early talent that proved vital to the survival of her family when Gilbert died penniless in 1828. At just 16, Stuart supported her mother and three older sisters by painting portraits and miniatures in oils, in addition to numerous copies of her father's works, in her studio in Boston. She became one of the most skilled of the dozens of artists routinely commissioned to recreate Gilbert Stuart's classic paintings, such as his Athenaeum—so much so that dishonest art dealers often tried to pass off Stuart's work as that of her father's. One of her copies is on display at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Stuart's ability to accurately copy her father's works belies the fact that she had her own distinctive style. Her original paintings Scene from a Novel (1834) and Caroline Marsh (1840) demonstrate the simple charm and romantic literary content of her work through the use of oval forms. Tragically, the destruction of her studio in a fire during the 1850s resulted in the loss of the body of her work along with most of the correspondence and mementos of her father's life. Stuart spent her later years among the wealthy residents of Newport, Rhode Island, where she was considered a colorful, eccentric character. Her love of fortune-telling and matchmaking combined with her prankish, creative humor contributed to her popularity in Newport society, although she herself did not have money. When the home in which she lived with her sister was sold by its owners, Stuart's wealthy friends came to their aid by buying them another dwelling. She lived there until her death in 1888.


Rubinstein, Charlotte Streifer. American Woman Artists. Boston, MA: G.K. Hall, 1982.

B. Kimberly Taylor , freelance writer, New York, New York

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Stuart, Jane (1812–1888)

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