In the spring of 1789, citizens crowded the New York
shoreline, anxiously awaiting the arrival of their first
President, George Washington. In a letter to his wife, Elias
Boudinot captured the excitement:
New York, 24 April 1789
If it was in my Power, I could wish to give you an
adequate account of the Proceedings of the Citizens
of this Metropolis on the approach and the Reception
of our President George Washington when he arrived
here yesterday....The Streets were lined with the
Inhabitants as thick as the People could standMen,
Women & ChildrenNay I may venture to say Tens
of Thousands....Heads standing as thick as Ears
of Corn before the Harvest when their [sic] stood up
about 20 gentlemen & Ladies & with most excellent
voices sang an elegant Ode prepared for the purpose
to the tune of God Save the King, welcoming their
great Chief to the seat of GovernmentAt the conclusion we gave them our Hatts [sic] and then they with
the surrounding boats gave us their Cheers.
More than two hundred years later, cities once again
await the arrival of George Washington. And once again
the mood is festive as museums across the country welcome the National Portrait Gallery 's exhibition "George Washington: A National Treasure." Students, many visiting
museums for the first time, have crowded the galleries in
Las Vegas and Houston to see this prized image of the
father of our country on tour for the first time in history.
Made possible through the generosity of the Donald W.
Reynolds Foundation, the exhibition opened at the
Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas, on February
15,2002,continued on to the Las Vegas Art Museum
in Nevada, and opened November 7 at the Los Angeles
County Art Museum (LACMA)in California. At the
tour 's conclusion, the portrait will return to its permanent
home in the Smithsonian 's National Portrait Gallery in
Painted in 1796 by artist Gilbert Stuart, the portrait
was commissioned by Senator and Mrs. Bingham
of Philadelphia as a gift for the British Marquis of
Lansdowne, who sympathized with colonial grievances
before the Revolutionary War. Thus, it is often referred to
One year after the tragedy of September 11,2001,
Americans have paused to remember and reflect. The
Wall of Expression that surrounds the Old Patent Office
Building in Washington, D.C., still stands as a memorial
to those who sacrificed, a tribute to those who served,
and an expression of hope for the future. And across the
country at the Las Vegas Art Museum, students place
their wishes for America on the "Wish Tree."
"I wish that everyone would be happy." "I wish that
the Twin Towers would never have fallen." "I wish there
would be no poor people and everyone would have
enough to eat." "I wish everyone in the world would be
free like us." "I wish that no one would be dead." "I wish
Americans would feel safe. "The wishes keep coming.
And from even the youngest participants, we sense a
deep concern for the nation and its people. Perhaps we
have all begun to care for one another.
as the "Lansdowne " portrait. One of the most important
visual documents of the founding of our nation, its historical and cultural significance has been compared to that of
the Liberty Bell and the Declaration of Independence.
At the Las Vegas Art Museum, home to the portrait for
the last 18 weeks, Lansdowne Tour Coordinator Cynthia
Dunn reports that 15,000 students have visited "George "
through school tours, and now wear lapel stickers claiming "I saw the President today." Students in Lexington,
South Carolina, hosted the first George Washington
State Education Day. Their "commitment to country "
shows in everything from their Veterans Day ceremony
to a salute to New York's firefighters. And in Pasadena, Texas, kids even drew their own versions of the portrait.
Join the tour in Los Angeles November 8, 2002 through March 9, 2002 and let LACMA introduce you to this treasured portrait saved from the auction block for the American people, and to this true patriot, a man who shaped the American presidency and guided the country through the "fragile experiment" of democracy.