December 3rd Should Be a National Holiday

Gilbert Stuart was born on this date in 1755.

Because he portrayed virtually all the notable men and women of the Federal period in the United States, Gilbert Stuart was declared the “Father of American Portraiture” by his contemporaries. Born in Rhode Island, the artist trained and worked in London, England, and Dublin, Ireland, from 1775 to 1793. He then returned to America with the specific intention of painting President Washington’s portrait.

Stuart resided in New York (1793-1795); Philadelphia (1795-1803), where he did his first portrait of George Washington; and the new capital at Washington, D.C. (1803-1805). In 1805 he settled in Boston and painted the Gibbs-Coolidge Set, the only surviving depiction of all five first presidents. Before his death at seventy-two, Stuart also taught many followers. A charming conversationalist, Stuart entertained his sitters during long hours of posing to sustain the fresh spontaneity of their expressions. To emphasize facial characterization, he eliminated unnecessary accessories and preferred dark, neutral backgrounds and simple, bust- or half-length formats.

Stuart often was irritatingly slow in completing commissions, in spite of his swift, bravura brushwork. Though he inevitably commanded high prices, Stuart lived on the verge of bankruptcy throughout his career because of his extravagant lifestyle and inept business dealings. In London, for instance, he had owned a carriage, an unheard-of presumption for a commoner. And Stuart’s years in Ireland, both coming and going, had been ploys to escape debtors’ prison.

National Gallery of Art

George B. McClellan was born on this date in 1826. McClellan was the commander of Union forces in the east during much of the first two years of the War of the Rebellion. He loved to organize and feared to fight. McClellan was the unsuccessful Democratic candidate for President in 1864, receiving 21 to Lincoln’s 212 electoral votes.

“Many say they would almost worship you, if you would put a fighting general in the place of McClellan. This would be splendid weather for an engagement.” Mary Todd Lincoln to Abraham Lincoln, November 2, 1862 — Lincoln removed McClellan November 7th

Jozef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski was born on this date in 1857. Born in the Ukraine of Polish descent, Joseph Conrad learned English in the British merchant marine in his twenties. He began writing in the 1890s and published his first novel, Almayer’s Folly, in 1895. Lord Jim (1900) and Heart of Darkness (1902) are his most famous works.

Daryl Hannah is 55 today. So is Julianne Moore. Together they have five Oscar nominations, three for leading actress — a win last year — and two for supporting actress. All are Moore’s, of course.