The Washington Family Analysis

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The Washington Family by Edward Savage, painted from 1789-1796, features American’s original “First Family.” (Fig. 1) George Washington sits around a table in his Mount Vernon home with his wife, Martha and her two grandchildren, whom the Washingtons adopted following the death of their parents. Behind them, a household slave stands ready to serve and a vast landscape sprawls outside the window. Though the painting appears to be a simple, family portrait, it actually contains deeper, political messages.
Savage depicts George Washington in a domestic setting to showcase his personal life outside of the presidency; he is depicted with his family and in his private home. However, he is also shown in uniform, alluding to his role as general. He does not grasp his sword, but instead rests his hand on a stack of papers, representing his role as statesman. It was well known that Washington intended to step out of the public sphere following the war before being elected, and that he continued to long for a quiet life at home throughout his presidency. In this work, Savage depicts Washington filling roles of general, statesman and patriarch, making the statement that he can fulfil all three roles. Further, by depicting Washington as a father figure in his domestic setting, Savage invites his viewers to connect him with the founding of the nations and thus visually establish him as the “Father” of our country. Considering the popular print version of the work distributed around the

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