Stuart returned to America, first living in Philadelphia and later settling permanently in Boston, where he became the most celebrated portrait painter of his day. He painted three portraits of Washington from life and more than 100 replicas of these three. His first, the so-called Vaughan type (1795), is a bust with the right side of the face shown; there are at least 15 replicas in existence, one of which is in the collection of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. The second, the Lansdowne type (1796), painted for the marquess of Lansdowne, is a full-length study of the president; the original is in the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. The third, unfinished, the Athenaeum Head (Mus. of Fine Arts, Boston, and National Portrait Gall., Smithsonian) named for the version once owned by the Boston Athenæum, was commissioned (c.1796) by Martha Washington. The artist kept the original version while she had to remain content with one of the 75 replicas he subsequently painted. This portrait has been immortalized by the engraving on the U.S. one-dollar bill.
Stuart's elegant and brilliant style, partially modeled after Reynolds and Gainsborough, is seen at its best in such portraits as those of Mrs. Richard Yates (National Gall. of Art, Washington, D.C.), Josef and Matilda de Jaudenes y Nebot (Metropolitan Mus.), and John Adams (N.Y. Historical Society). He painted these and many other notable figures of the day including Thomas Jefferson, James Monroe, James and Dolley Madison, Abigail Adams, John Jay, John Jacob Astor, his mentor West, Reynolds, John Singleton Copley, John Trumbell, Washington Allston, and other artists, and a wide variety of members of the mainly American and British elite. The greater part of Stuart's works are in collections in Boston, New York City, and Philadelphia.
See R. McLanathan, Gilbert Stuart: The Father of American Portraiture (1986); D. Evans, The Genius of Gilbert Stuart (1999); C. R. Barratt and E. G. Miles, Gilbert Stuart (2004).
He was born at Kelvedon Hatch, Essex, on 25 October 1883, the only son of a retired army officer, Arthur Stronge Gilbert, and Melvina (daughter of the Raja of Kapurthala). He attended Cheltenham and Hertford College, Oxford, taking a first in Classical Moderations. Following this, he joined the Indian Civil Service in 1907, and, after military service in World War I, served as a judge in Burma until 1925. He then retired, settling in France with his French-born wife Moune (née Marie Douin). He remained there for the rest of his life, excepting some time in Wales during World War II.
Gilbert was one of the first Joycean scholars. He read Ulysses whilst in Burma, and admired it greatly. His wife gives an account of his introduction to Joyce personally: While she and Gilbert were talking a walk in the Latin Quarter of Paris when they passed Shakespeare and Company. Some typescript pages of a French translation of Ulysses by Auguste Morel and Valery Larbaud were being advertised in the window, and Gilbert noted that there were several serious errors in the French rendering. He introduced himself to Sylvia Beach, and she was impressed with his criticisms of the translation. She took his name and telephone number, and suggested that Joyce (who was assisting in the translation) would contact him. This began many years of friendship between Joyce and Gilbert. He published James Joyce's Ulysses: A Study in 1930 and published a collection of Joyce's letters in 1957.