Friday, December 01, 2017

Arty Farty Friday ~ Gilbert C. Stuart & Jupitarian Excess

Last Friday I looked again at the careers and natal charts of two painters whose natal Suns lay in Sagittarius, Edvard Munch and Toulouse Lautrec. There are archived posts about two others, Otto Dix and Georges Seurat HERE and HERE. A keen astrology fan might enjoy comparing their charts and their personalities - as far as we can know them from this distance in time and space.

 Self portrait

This Friday, a look at yet another painter whose natal Sun was in Sagittarius: Gilbert C. Stuart.

Gilbert C. Stuart (birth spelling Stewart) was born on 3 December 1755 in Saunderstown Rhode Island.

I'd never heard of this portrait painter, but I must have seen at least one of his works many, many times, as has anyone who has used $1 bills, his famous portrait of George Washington embellishes these.

(Highlighting in the following extracts is my own, and relates to astrological considerations, included at the end of this post.)
Gilbert Charles Stuart began as a portrait painter in the American colonies. In 1770, Stuart met Scottish artist Cosmo Alexander, who became his first instructor. He was able to travel to London for further training under Benjamin West. Stuart learned the painterly brushwork in the style of the Grand Manner, which was the favored style of Sir Joshua Reynolds. Reynolds, leading portraitist of the day.

Stuart opened a successful portrait studio in London. He had extravagant tastes and this left him with large debts and eventually, in 1792, he had to escape to New York to avoid debtors’ prison.

Stuart produced portraits of over 1,000 people, including the first six Presidents of the United States. His work can be found in museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Frick Collection in New York City, the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., the National Portrait Gallery, London, Worcester Art Museum in Massachusetts, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

Information from

Stuart was 5 ft. 10 in. in height, with ruddy complexion and strongly marked features, bearing some resemblance to John Kemble whom he affected to imitate in his manner of speaking. Notwithstanding his irritable disposition, his biting sarcasm and keen and searching eye, he was a favourite with women and was very successful in rendering their portraits.

Stuart’s work was admired by his contemporaries, modern critics have praised his brushwork, luminous colour, and psychological penetration. Stuart’s working method included eschewing preliminary sketches, he painted his sitters' faces directly onto the canvas or panel. Less talented artists, including his own daughter Jane, reduced his style to a formula that was reflected in much American portraiture of the succeeding generation.

Stuart was an artist of much power; his portraits are well painted and are good in colour; robust and vigorous in modelling, they show an insight into character, a faculty he prided himself in possessing. He had a high estimate of his own powers, was vain and self-opinionated, impatient of criticism and very independent, always refusing to alter a portrait to please a sitter. "A painter," he said, "may give up his art if he attempts to alter to please; it cannot be done." He worked rapidly, but it was often difficult to get him to finish his pictures. On his departure from Ireland he left many portraits unfinished; "the artists of Dublin will get employed in finishing them," he said. Most of his work is in America, where he continued painting until his death; and in spite of his age and infirmities some of his last productions had all the vigour and brilliancy of his prime. His Irish portraits, owing probably to an unappreciative public and absence of competition, were not painted with the same care as those he did in England and America.
As he had in England, Stuart made a very good living off of the commissions he earned for each portrait, as well as from selling replicas of them. However, he also continued the extravagant lifestyle which had led to his having to leave England. He also grew increasingly eccentric, often turning down commissions because he refused to paint people with dull faces and leaving many paintings unfinished.
Gilbert Stuart moved to Boston in 1805, and died there virtually penniless on July 9, 1828.

 Abigail Adams - wife of John Adams by Gilbert C. Stuart
Many examples of Stuart's portraits can be seen via Google Image HERE.


In Gilbert Stuart's case several planets joined the Sun in Sagittarius, placing more emphasis on Jupiter-ruled sign of the Archer. Let's see how that worked out for him! I haven't found his natal chart elsewhere on the internet. Here it is, set for 12 noon as his time of birth isn't known.

Highlighted (by me) words and phrases in the extracts above reflect a Sagittarian tendency to excess. Stuart's extravagant lifestyle stands out as related to this natal cluster of planets in Sagittarius: Sun, Moon (whatever his time of birth), Venus and Pluto.

His irritable disposition, biting sarcasm and keen and searching eye, highlighted above -
I see these as reflections of Mercury in Scorpio.

There's a "yod" (Finger of Fate) in his chart, it links Jupiter (ruler of Sagittarius) to Neptune (creativity) by sextile, and both those planets link to Uranus via two 150 degree aspects. Whenever I see such a formation in a natal chart I feel that the planet at the apex of the "yod" has to be important, indicating how a blend of the two sextiled planets might emanate, at times uncomfortably but at other times profitably. Uranus, planet of eccentricity, the unexpected, all that is modern or futuristic is indeed reflected in Stuart's nature and hi lifestyle. A note in one of the extracts, above, refers to his "increasing eccentricity". His modern painting style was much admired and, as highlighted earlier, was adopted for use by painters of the next generation.


Wisewebwoman said...

The detail on that Adams portrait is breathtaking


Twilight said...

Wisewebwoman ~ It is! It was the reason for my choice of portrait to feature. :-)

Casual Reader said...

Many thanks for the interesting profile, Twilight!

Gilbert was from Saunderstown - one of the many villages that comprise the town of North Kingstown, which is also my hometown.

Here's a related story from 1891, written by the town's historian, Tim Cranston, in his regular column, 'The View From Swamptown'.

Twilight said...

Casual Reader ~ Oh my! Many thanks for that sidelight. There's enough drama there for a TV mini-series or a movie!