Wednesday, February 22, 2012
George Washington and the Paparazzi
Now on display in the Public Vaults of the National Archives in Washington, DC, is an original letter written by President Washington to his friend, Gov. Henry Lee of Virginia, on July 3, 1792. In the letter, Washington turns down the request of the artist William Williams, who asked through Gov. Lee to paint the President's portrait. As Mount Vernon associate curator Laura Simo explains, Washington was fed up with posing for portraits, a frequent duty when he was President. In the letter, Washington complains that the painters frequently hawk cheap versions of his portrait to the public. National Archives curator Alice Kamps -- who chose the letter and curated its exhibit -- describes the painters as the 18th-century equivalent of today's paparazzi. Williams did paint Washington's portrait, which now hangs in Alexandria-Washington Masonic Lodge 22.