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University Celebrating Washington’s Birthday by Unveiling Stuart Portrait

February 18, 1985

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) _ The University of New Mexico will celebrate George Washington’s birthday by unveiling a replica of the 1796 portrait familiar to generations of American schoolchildren and anyone who has handled a $1 bill.

Gilbert Charles Stuart painted three original portraits of Washington, one of which - an unfinished painting known as the Athenaeum type - later was immortalized on the $1 bill. The famous painting now hangs in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.

But Stuart’s portraits of Washington were in such demand the late 18th century that the artist eventually painted at least 60 copies of the three poses.

The UNM painting is a replica of the Athenaeum type, but a finished version.

The University of New Mexico was given the replica by retired rancher Donn Davies, who received it from his stepfather, Charles Davies. The elder Davies had bought the portrait in 1928 or 1929.

The painting is known as the Oakes Portrait because it was commissioned by a Mr. Oakes, a Revolutionary War soldier. It probably was painted around the late 18th or early 19th century.

″The Oakes Portrait is a very important portrait,″ said Sherman White, a Santa Barbara, Calif., conservator who restored the UNM painting. ″This one that we have here is very close to the original Athenaeum. It’s a national treasure.″

The replica stayed in the Oakes family for about a hundred years, White said. Early in this century, the family commissioned the Newhouse Galleries in New York City to sell the painting and it was bought by Charles Davies.

Because White traced the painting from Davies to the Newhouse Galleries to the Oakes family, he said he has no doubt it is one of Stuart’s original replicas.

The portrait was being unveiled at UNM’s Hodgin Hall today.

Neither White nor university officials would put a value on the painting.

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