Rare George Washington painting hits AZ auction block

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By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland
By Catherine Holland By Catherine Holland

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- A rare painting of President George Washington by one of America's best-known portrait painters will go up for auction in Arizona.

The painting by the late portrait artist Gilbert Stuart could fetch more than $1 million when it goes to auction at 11 a.m. Feb. 26 at J. Levine Auction & Appraisal at 10345 N. Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale.

A free public preview is scheduled Feb. 25 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The estimated value of the portrait is between $800,000 and $1.2 million.

Stuart was born in Rhode Island in 1755. He painted numerous portraits of George Washington. The engraving that appears on the U.S. $1 bill was based on a Stuart painting of America's first president.

Throughout his career, Stuart produced portraits of more than 1,000 people, including the first six presidents of the United States.

He was known for working without the aid of sketches, beginning directly upon the canvas, which was very unusual for the time period.

According to his biographical sketch, Stuart lived well beyond his means and left his family in impoverished conditions.

His travels to Europe were to better improve his artistic talents as well as to avoid creditors.

In 1792, he returned to America and was so highly regarded as a portrait painter, many of the most prominent people in government became his portrait subjects.

Stuart was known for his erratic behavior, which many attributed to his artistic genius, his biographical sketch mentioned.

Stuart died in 1828. He is buried in Boston in an unmarked pauper's grave.