White House as Art Gallery

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In an hourlong ramble through the White House last Friday, William G. Allman, the White House curator, offered up the story of the American presidency through portraits - good, not so good and, as he said of one posthumous painting of James Buchanan, currently in storage,"really gruesome." Mr. Allman's first stop was Stuart's full-length portrait of Washington that hangs in the East Room, the one saved by Dolley Madison when the British torched the White House in 1814. Some scholars say it is not a Stuart at all, but Mr. Allman disagreed, although Stuart at one point denied it was his."It was partly because he sold it twice," Mr. Allman said."He sold it to somebody else and then he sold it to the government, and then when somebody said, 'Hey, you never delivered it to Mr. Whoever-It-Was,' he said, 'Oh, no, but the one at the White House isn't mine.' But stylistically, the brush strokes and the paint texture dictate that it should be a Stuart."


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