The American Philosophical Society, founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1743, proudly bears the title of the nation's oldest learned society.  Our founders participated in the birth of American democracy. It pains us greatly that all these years later, our nation's promise has yet to be fulfilled.  We join all Americans of good will in deploring the senseless murder of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police. Over these past months the Society has hosted a number of virtual programs.  Even as we now resume our work with the offering of new programs, our attention remains focused on the senseless loss of innocent lives and our commitment to the difficult, necessary conversations and actions we must all take to begin to ensure that such tragedies end. Read more about virtual programming and resources that can be accessed remotely. Read more about the APS response to COVID-19.

A Final Image: The Thomas Sully Portrait of Thomas Jefferson

6:00 p.m.

July 9, 2020
6:00 p.m.

Free and open to the public.
Please register to attend.

Virtual event on Zoom

portrait of thomas jefferson

Please note, this event will now be held as a virtual discussion on Zoom. Please register and a link to attend will be sent to your email in the days before the talk. 

The American Philosophical Society holds the final portrait of Thomas Jefferson painted directly from life. The artist, Thomas Sully, traveled to Jefferson’s home, Monticello, early in 1821 to create this image of the retired president and statesman, then age 78, that now hangs in Benjamin Franklin Hall. This important portrait along with Sully’s final full-length version, now at the United States Military Academy at West Point, anchor an upcoming talk by Gaye Wilson, author of Jefferson on Display: Attire, Etiquette, and the Art of Presentation. She looks to the collaboration between artist and sitter and at the artistic elements of the resulting portraits to probe how these works of art reflect Jefferson’s concerns for his own legacy and the future of the American Republic.

Gaye S. Wilson is Senior Fellow at the Robert H. Smith International Center for Jefferson Studies, the academic branch of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation. Prior to joining the Foundation in 1993, her first career was as a theatrical costume designer and clothing historian. Wilson’s recent book, Jefferson on Display: Attire, Etiquette, and the Art of Presentation, combines this interest in clothing history along with her work in early American history. Her book looks closely at Thomas Jefferson’s clothing choices and how his personal self-fashioning supported his political goals.

She holds a MFA in theatre art and costume design from the University of Texas at Austin and a PhD in early American history from the University of Edinburgh.