Benjamin Waterhouse in 1776, by Gilbert Stuart ||following ||
Benjamin Waterhouse (1754–1846), who became one of America's best-known but perennially controversial physicians, and Gilbert Stuart, the greatest American portrait painter of his generation, were schoolmates in Newport, Rhode Island, in the 1760's. In 1776, though they had traveled different routes, they found themselves together again in London, where Stuart painted this highly attractive portrait of his friend. Whether it is the same as that which, according to Waterhouse's rambling memories furnished years later to William Dunlap, was commissioned by Dr. John Fothergill “as a delicate mode of giving the young American artist ten guineas,” is not clear, because Waterhouse said he had no idea what happened to that portrait (William Dunlap, A History of the Rise and Progress of the Arts of Design in the United States, ed. Frank W. Bayley and Charles E. Goodspeed, Boston, 1918, 1:204). See also Lawrence Park, comp., Gilbert Stuart: An Illustrated Descriptive List of His Works, New York, 1926, 2:790–791.
The relations between Waterhouse and the Adams family, beginning in the Netherlands in 1780, were close and enduring. A summary account of them has been given in a note on Waterhouse's letter from Leyden to John Adams, 13 December 1780
, q.v. below, with references there. Other Waterhouse letters also appear here, and hundreds more survive that were exchanged, respectively, with John Adams and John Quincy Adams for sixty years thereafter. Still
others were evidently destroyed by Waterhouse heirs. The selection in Worthington C. Ford, ed., Statesman and Friend
: Correspondence of John Adams and Benjamin Waterhouse, 1784–1822
, Boston, 1927, though valuable, is the merest sampling.
Courtesy of the Redwood Library and Athenaeum, Newport, Rhode Island.