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Selections from the C. W. McAlpin Collection

Section II

Artistic Mediums

The McAlpin Collection features a number of items beneficial to the study of printmaking methods and the evolution of imagery. These include prints in multiple states, or degrees of completion, such as the two by James Heath. Also of interest are similar images executed in different mediums, such as a painting attributed to Frederick Kemmelmeyer and its reproduction in mezzotint by Samuel Arlent Edwards. The printed textiles and the portraits that influenced them, on view elsewhere in the gallery, are also relevant to this study.


James Heath (English, 1757–1834)
after Gilbert Stuart (American, 1755–1828)
General Washington
Etching and engraving
London: James Heath, 1797

James Heath (English, 1757–1834)
General Washington
Engraving and etching
London: James Heath, 1800

Gilbert Stuart’s “Lansdowne” portrait of Washington, so named for William Petty, first Marquis of Lansdowne, for whom it was painted in 1796, was soon regarded by many as the finest representation of Washington as president. Its triumph immediately led to requests for replicas by Stuart and other artists. James Heath lost no time in engraving the portrait, without consulting Stuart, who had failed to copyright his painting. (Heath further vexed Stuart with the inaccurate inscription “Painted by Gabriel Stuart 1797.”) While Heath profited greatly from the sales of his print, which he published in the two states on view here, Stuart was enraged by what he regarded as piracy, for he had commissioned an engraved reproduction from William Sharp (1749–1824). George Washington Parke Custis praised the head as “incomparably the best likeness of the Chief in his latter days,” but noted that Stuart had “failed entirely” in the figure. According to the historian Benson J. Lossing: “A small man named Smith, with whom Washington boarded in Philadelphia, stood for the figure of Stuart’s full-lengths of Washington.”


Attributed to Frederick Kemmelmeyer (American, born Germany?, died 1821)
Genl; Geoe; Washington
Oil on paperboard, ca. 1800

Samuel Arlent Edwards (American, born England, 1861–1938)
after (attribution) Frederick Kemmelmeyer (American, born Germany?, died 1821)
Genl; Geoe; Washington
Color mezzotint, 1900

The painting, likely executed as a model for commemorative prints, has been attributed to Frederick Kemmelmeyer, probably a self-taught artist, active in Baltimore from 1788 to 1805. The corresponding mezzotint was created specifically to appear in the Catalogue of the Engraved Portraits of Washington, by Charles Henry Hart, published by the Grolier Club in New York in 1904. Hart mentions this print in the proem: “There is but one print, that I know, not described in this catalogue, and it is the frontispiece to this volume. As it could not be issued until the book was published, it obviously could have no place in the text.” The footnote to this passage adds: “The only impressions printed from this plate, beyond the edition for the book [which were printed in black], are five printed in colors.” For this impression multiple colors were applied at once to a single printing plate, the same method employed by Peale for his color portrait of Washington in about 1788, also on display here.


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