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George Washington by Gilbert Stuart (1797)

White House Collection/White House Historical Association

Over time, the White House fine art collection has added portraits of every president and most of the first ladies. Not only do these portraits remind us how a particular president looked, especially important before the invention of photography, but they also offer historical clues through a variety of symbols, props, or backgrounds. While some presidential portraits are more famous than others, each one reveals small details about that president and the legacy they left behind. Explore the history behind the growth of the presidential portraiture collection, and discover specifics about select portraits starting with Gilbert Stuart's painting of George Washington.