Washington: The Myths and the Man

February 18, 2024 - May 12, 2024
George Washington among a crowd of other colonial era individuals, american flags in background, military carraige drawn by horses on left, man in green with cane greeting Washington who is in black. A man in red greets ladies wearing flower printed clothes

Philadelphia Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (1963-1930), “Washington’s Inauguration at Independence Hall,” (1793), 32” x 42”

About The Art

This exhibition presents thirteen original paintings by Philadelphia artist Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (1863-1930), along with 17 historical documents that reveal facts about George Washington’s actual life, and help viewers better understand the man behind the myths. By focusing on Washington’s private life at Mount Vernon, the exhibit explores what motivated him to become the public servant.

The glorification of Washington continued for more than a century after his death, culminating in the romanticized popular history paintings of Ferris. These canvases present a remarkable, appealing, and virtuous figure but provide limited reliable information about the “Father of Our Country.”

This traveling exhibition comes to the Butler from the Virginia Museum of History & Culture with support from the Robins Foundation. The Butler’s exhibition, which is underwritten by a generous donor, will be displayed in the MacIntosh gallery.

This Exhibit depicts pieces from the life of George Washington. The first president of this nation, who like many of his contemporaries’ owned slaves. As a result, pieces also display enslaved individuals. The Butler does not condone slavery or the impacts that it continues to have on descendants of enslaved individuals. The Butler, also, will not shy away from this history, and instead acknowledges that this country was built by enslaved peoples. In fact, “two of Washington, DC’s most famous buildings, the White House and the United States Capitol, were built in large part by enslaved African Americans.” The, albeit troubling, reality of this country is that many of those who wrote the Constitution owned other humans. You may be troubled by the way that these images of enslaved individuals juxtapose the images and artists displayed downstairs. Such a juxtaposition defines this nation. We hope that these images will begin a conversation regarding America’s history, and that that conversation would not end here.

Judge Benita Y. Pearson

Dr. Dee Banks

CATEGORIES: Exhibition

DATE: February 18, 2024 - May 12, 2024

LOCATION: MacIntosh Gallery

Selected Works


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