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W&L Paintings Star in Colonial Williamsburg Exhibition

Five gems from the art collection of Washington and Lee grace a major exhibition of Southern paintings that opened at Colonial Williamsburg’s DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum this past weekend, on March 23.

“Painters and Paintings in the Early American South” presents more than 80 works by such famed artists as Charles Willson Peale and John Singleton Copley.

W&L’s contributions depict members of the Washington and Custis families, all painted between the mid- to late 18th century: Charles Willson Peale’s “George Washington as Colonel in the Virginia Regiment”; John Wollaston’s “Martha Dandridge Custis (Washington)”; Nehemiah Partridge’s “Frances Parke Custis (daughter)”; and Robert Edge Pine’s “George Washington Parke Custis” and “Elizabeth Parke Custis.”

“This is not the first time we’ve loaned artwork,” says Patricia Hobbs, associate director of University collections. “These paintings are in high demand because of their historical significance.”

President Custis Lee, president of W&L from 1871-1897, gave the Peale portrait of Washington to the University after he left the presidency. He loaned the other portraits to the W&L Art Gallery; they came to W&L for good in a bequest from his sister, Mary Custis Lee.

Another W&L painting, “John Custis IV (‘Tulip’ Custis),” possibly a c. 1740 copy by Charles Bridges, highlights another exhibit at the same gallery, “Masterworks.”