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The Art of Mort Künstler / The American Spirit / A New Nation

Here you will find a pictorial chronicle of the drama and excitement of American History. These paintings give the viewer an insight into the tumultuous life of this young nation that mere words cannot achieve.

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Washington's Inauguration
Federal Hall, New York, April 30, 1789

Historical Information

George Washington was the obvious choice for first president of the United States. The delegates who framed the Constitution had created the office with him in mind. Nevertheless, he did not enjoy the prospect of reentering public life so soon after leaving it. On April 16, 1789 he wrote in his diary: "I bade adieu to Mount Vernon, to private life, and to domestic felicity; and with a mind oppressed with more anxious and painful sensations than I have words to express, set out for New York…with the best dispositions to render service to my country in obedience to its call, but with less hope of answering its expectations."

Just after noon on April 30, Washington appeared on a balcony outside the Senate chamber at Federal Hall in New York, then the nation's capital. According to one Eliza Quincy, an eyewitness, he was "announced by universal shouts of joy and welcome. His appearance was most dignified and solemn. Advancing to the front of the balcony, he laid his hand on his heart, bowed several times, and then retreated to an arm-chair near the table." On this table was "a rich covering of red velvet; and upon this, on a crimson velvet cushion, lay a large and elegant Bible." He took the oath at one o'clock from Chancellor Robert R. Livingston of New York; Washington's secretary, Tobias Lear, noted that "the moment the chancellor proclaimed him president of the United States, the air was rent by repeated shouts and huzzas – 'God Bless our Washington! Long live our beloved President!'" Representative Fisher Ames of Massachusetts wrote that "it was a very touching scene, and quite of the solemn kind. His aspect grave, almost to sadness; his modesty, actually shaking; his voice deep, a little tremulous, and so low as to call for close attention." The world, Washington knew, was watching.

Date Created: 1985

Medium: Gouache

Image Size: 12" x 14"


All illustrations by Mort Künstler. Text by Michael Aubrecht, Dee Brown, Henry Steele Commager, Rod Gragg, Mort Künstler, Edward Lengel, James McPherson, and James I. Robertson, Jr. - Copyright © 2001-2022. All Rights Reserved. No part of the contents of this web site may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means without written consent of the artist.