Thomas Sully was a Philadelphia artist best known for his portrait paintings.

Sully was born in England in 1783, and lived for a time in Virginia, South Carolina, and various parts of New England. He began painting at a young age and turned professional in 1801. After studying under artists such as Gilbert Stuart and Benjamin West, Sully lived and worked in Philadelphia for almost 70 years until his death in 1872.

In 1816, the General Assembly of North Carolina approached Sully (and other artists) to paint two portraits of George Washington. Sully's rates won out over Rembrandt Peale's, and he offered the assembly two choices: two copies of Gilbert Stuart's original portrait of George Washington or one copy of Stuart's work and one original work featuring Washington. The Assembly chose the latter and picked Washington's December passage of the Delaware River as the theme for Sully's own painting. Today, Sully's original painting, "The Passage of the Delaware," is in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

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