Death of Washington


Junius Brutus Stearns.  “Life of George Washington.  [The Christian.]”  New York: M. Knoedler, 1853.  18 1/4 x 24 1/2.  Lithograph by Regnier.  Printed in Paris.  Narrow margins top and sides, and bottom margin with a short, repaired tear and with sub-title trimmed off.  Otherwise, very good condition.


Junius B. Stearns (1810-1885) was an American genre and portrait painter who studied at the National Academy of Design, as well as exhibited there throughout his career and served as recording secretary from 1851 to 1865.  Stearns became interested in historical themes and in 1849 completed a painting of the marriage of George and Martha Washington which was purchased by the American Art Union for its exhibit in 1850 and was subsequently part of the Art Union’s lottery.  Stearns was inspired by the success of this painting to plan a cycle of four images of the life of Washing and he solicited the AAU to commission this series, but was turned down.  Stearns proceeded anyway and ended up with five paintings showing Washington as a citizen—at his wedding (modified from the earlier canvas), a farmer—overseeing workers on his plantation, a soldier—at the defeat of Braddock, a statesman—taking the inauguration oath, and finally as a Christian—on his deathbed.

Stearns had the five paintings made into lithographs in France, using Regnier to do the fine lithography.  The critics applauded both the conception and execution of these fine prints which are a wonderful series showing the “Father of his Country” in a humanized manner.  This print shows Washington in his death bed.  Washington’s family and friends gather at his bedside, Washington preparing himself for death with an equanimity founded in his knowledge that he had lived his life well and honorably.