< American Art < Works

George Washington Surrendering His Commission (1783)


Francis B. Mayer (American, 1827 - 1899)

This pair of paintings speaks to America’s fascination with its past and, in particular, with its leaders from the Colonial era, such as George Washington. This fascination was part of a broader cultural phenomenon known as the “Colonial Revival,” which culminated in the 1920s with the creation of entire historical villages such as Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. These two paintings, both executed around the turn of the 20th century, depict two important moments in the life of the country’s first president, George Washington.

Francis Mayer, a talented painter and illustrator, chose to celebrate the centennial of Washington’s resignation as Commander in Chief of the Army in 1783: an event that established civilian rather than military rule. Six years later, in 1789, Washington was sworn in as the country’s first president. This ceremony is depicted in the painting by Howard Pyle who, along with N.C. Wyeth, was among America’s foremost illustrators at the turn of the 20th century. Here, a reluctant Washington assumes leadership of the fledgling nation. Washington wrote in his journal shortly before the inauguration: “About 10 o'clock I bade adieu to Mount Vernon, to private life, and to domestic felicity, and with a mind oppressed with more anxious and painful sensations than I have words to express, set out for New York . . . to render service to my country in obedience to its call, but with less hope of answering its expectations."

Place object was created: United States

oil paint, board

Measurements:    frame height: 21.25 inches    frame width: 27 inches    smallest height: 18 inches    smallest width: 23.375 inches    frame depth: 1.25 inches

Gift of Bernard Richter 1971.14

Currently on view at Mint Museum UPTOWN