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William Dunlap – A Mason Whose Art Made History

It may seem ironic that in 1783, the son of a Loyalist to the British Crown would make his mark on history by drawing the portrait of General George Washington. Yet, at the young age of 17, William Dunlap’s artistic talents were so unique that he would not only create a remarkable portrait of the commander of the Continental Army who would become our nation’s first President of the United States – but Dunlap would later go on to author the first book on the history of art in America.

The artist was born on February 19, 1766, in Perth Amboy, New Jersey where his father, Samuel, was a merchant dealing in household goods. Samuel Dunlap moved his wife and young son, William, to New York in 1777. Loyal to King George, Samuel felt this family should seek refuge in New York during the tumult of the Revolutionary War. New York and the areas surr