Pastel portrait by James Sharples, 1796
The VHS recently acquired this pastel portrait of George Washington, done from a sitting in 1796—the last year of his presidency—by James Sharples (1752–1811), an immigrant from England. The mainstay of Sharples's business was making replicas from the life portrait he made of Washington, just as Gilbert Stuart's staple was making replicas in oil of his portrait of the first president.
Although Sharples's wife and children are also known to have executed copies, the VHS pastel was attributed to James Sharples himself by the leading authority on the artist. It was purchased at a New York gallery and given on July 4, 1945, to Lewis Strauss by his mother. Strauss, who made his home in Brandy Station, became an adviser to presidents on nuclear energy and was a member of the VHS executive committee. At his death, his widow, Alice Strauss, gave the VHS some of his greatest treasures, including Washington's own copy of The Compleat Farmer and Robert E. Lee's personal copy of his father's memoirs of the War of 1812. Alice Strauss was an honorary member of the VHS, and following her death last December the pastel of Washington came to us as a bequest.
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