Principle Gallery and Alexandria’s Rich History

When you make a visit to Old Town Alexandria, and to Principle Gallery in particular, you are walking in the footsteps of some of early America’s most historically significant figures. We are amazed and humbled to be immersed in the area’s vibrant history in this way, and we’re incredible excited to share with you a brief piece written by Edward Moser, historian, author, and operator of Tours of Old Town. Please enjoy! See the end of the post for links to both Edward’s tours and his two books!

The Principle Gallery and Alexandria’s Rich History
by Edward Moser

The Principle Gallery is in the middle of everything an art, architecture, and history lover could want.

Just down King Street from it is the Torpedo Factory, a World War One, and Two, munitions factory now transformed into artist studios where visitors can watch sculptors and painters conjure up their creations in their own places of work. Across King St. from it is the imposing tobacco and ship sail warehouse, now a Starbuck’s, of George Washington’s military aide, Colonel John Fitzgerald. He and George co-endowed the nearby St. Mary’s Church, the first Catholic cathedral in the American South, and resting place of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier of the American Revolution.

A half block up King St. is the tourist information center, once the house of Alexandria magnate William Ramsey. He moved this former mansion by barge along what was then the Potomac River, now King St. landfill, and deposited his abode by crane at that spot! Across the street is the Market Square and City Hall, designed by Benjamin Latrobe, the architect of the original U.S. Capitol Building. Except for its far side, which burned down in 1871, and was rebuilt by Adolph Cluss, the architect of D.C.’s Smithsonian Castle and the National Portrait Gallery. At the meeting hall of City Hall, George Mason dreamed up something called the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. Across from it is the Carlyle House mansion, the real-life setting of the recent Civil War-era TV series, Mercy Street.

Then there’s the Principle Gallery itself, built and inhabited by another colonel of Washington’s revolutionary Army, George Gilpin. He was something of a Renaissance Man. Just before the Revolution he served on the local Committee of Public Safety, the Virginia equivalent of the Minutemen militia. He fought with valor at the major battle of Germantown, Pennsylvania, around the time of Valley Forge.

After the war he helped run the port of Alexandria, then one of the nation’s busiest, and backed Washington’s plans to build a canal from Georgetown to Alexandria, the Potomack Canal, later the C&O. He was a member of Washington’s masonic lodge, now marked by the soaring George Washington Masonic National Memorial at the other end of King St. President Thomas Jefferson appointed him as a court officer involved in aiding the town’s widows and orphans.

Gilpin was part of the effort to lay the boundary stones of the new capital city of Washington, which until 1846 included the town of Alexandria. One of these stones, laid by African-American surveyor Benjamin Bannecker, remains near the Wilson Bridge one mile to the south. Also a farmer, Gilpin sold G.W. the tons of corn he used for his whiskey distillery, recently reconstructed, at Mount Vernon, and also was the largest single purchaser of the spirits.

Most importantly, Gilpin was a cousin of a wealthy, charming, and keenly intelligent widow, Martha Dandridge Custis—and introduced her to George Washington, her future husband. George Gilpin and George Washington were friends for decades: G.W. would often dine and stay over at the Gilpin house. Gilpin was one of six pallbearers at Washington’s funeral, held at the imposing Christ Church a few blocks from here. That lovely English country church was designed by James Wren, a relative of Christopher Wren, the architect of London’s St Paul’s Cathedral.

The Gilpins and the Washingtons, as Virginia gentry, had fine tastes in the fine arts, and that tradition is proudly carried on by the Principle Gallery. If you like art and history, take the time to explore the historic and finely crafted Colonial and Federal era town homes and public buildings of Old Town. Then come inside our gallery to partake even more in the finer things in life.

Moonlit Night over Old Town Alexandria, VA by Craig Hudson Photography

Ed Moser is the operator of Tours of Old Town, found at– click here for more information!

Ed is also the author of “A Patriot’s A to Z of America: Things Every Good American Should Know,” and “The Two-Term Jinx!: Why Most Presidents Stumble in Their Second Terms, and How Some Succeed- Volume 1, George Washington- Theodore Roosevelt.” Click on either title to purchase from Amazon!


Studio Selfie Saturdays: Elizabeth Floyd

Elizabeth Floyd square selfie

Today’s #StudioSelfieSaturdays features local artist Elizabeth Floyd! Located right here in Alexandria, VA, Elizabeth specializes in lovely still life compositions, full of color and life. (Check them out here!) In this selfie, though, you can see some portaits in the background–that’s because she’s practicing for the upcoming Face Off, where she will be painting a model live at the gallery along with artists Cindy Procious and Mia Bergeron! This exciting event will be held this coming Friday, August 8th, starting at 6PM. Don’t miss it!

10 Questions for the Artist

  1. Paint is: entrancing, that is, oil paint and the myriad ways you can apply it is entrancing.
  2. Cats/Dogs? both, and right now I have a loving and sweet Abyssinian kitty named Slim
  3. Your first car:  Toyota 4Runner
  4. Favorite painting music:  my Pandora station of Kings of Leon, Sex on Fire
  5. Your “spirit animal”: a feline
  6. If you could time travel and witness an artist create their masterpiece, which work would you choose?   When I am feeling serene and contemplative, Vermeer’s Woman Holding a Balance, and when I am feeling upbeat and curious, Velazquez’s Las Meninas
  7. All time favorite movie:  I don’t have an all time favorite, but I love to watch a few movies over and over, such as Lost in Translation, The Violin, and the biopic about Keats, Bright Star
  8. Place you’d love to travel to:  England, all over, but particularly the Lake District and the Cotswolds.  I would go from one beautiful garden to the next.
  9. Morning person or night owl?  Night owl who has shifted to being more of a morning person out of necessity
  10. If I weren’t an artist, I think I’d be: I would only be an artist because I tried another career in architecture before becoming a full time artist and I know it is the best career in the world for me.


Studio Selfie Saturdays: Bethanne Kinsella Cople

It’s time for #StudioSelfieSaturday! Today’s selfie come to us from the amazing local landscape painter Bethanne Kinsella Cople. (She is pictured here with her lovely studio assistant, Winnie.) Bethanne is well loved for her gorgeous lanscapes and lush painting technique. To check out all of her currently available work on our website, just click here! BethanneCopleSelfie Square sharpened It’s especially appropriate to be celebrating an artist from right here in Alexandria, as today happens to be Alexandria’s 265th birthday! Happy birthday from all of us at Principle Gallery! This is a truly wonderful town.

birthday fireworks on Alexandria's waterfront

Be sure to enjoy the birthday fireworks on Alexandria’s waterfront tonight!

“Life” by Scott Christensen

Sometimes a painting will come to the gallery and will elicit the same response from nearly every visitor when they first view it. In the case of “Life,” by Scott Christensen, that reaction is, “WOW.”

Below is the work, in all its beautiful framed glory, with Asher the gallery dog helping out as a reference for scale.

Collage 2 72

This grand, atmospheric landscape of the Georgia marshlands measures an impressive 70 inches by 70 inches, and that’s without the frame! The stunningly beautiful handcrafted wooden frame surrounding the painting brings its total dimensions to about 82 x 82. The stately and colossal nature of the work is just part of its incredible attraction.

The composition itself is lovely and carefully created, as is typical of Scott’s artwork. An instructor as well as a painter, Scott regularly emphasizes the importance of careful composition. His nuanced and wisely restrained color palette has also contributed to his status as one of America’s most respected and renowned landscape painters. “Life” is an excellent example of these qualities in Scott’s art, as the hushed color palette and inviting composition (especially at this large scale) create a mesmerizing effect on the viewer. Frequently-heard descriptors from viewers include words like poetic, ethereal, atmospheric, moody, magical, spellbinding, breathtaking, hauntingly beautiful, romantic, soft, serene– the list goes on and on.

When she saw the piece in Charleston, artist and blogger Barbara Stroud wrote a blog post about “Life” in which she said in praise, “I’m not kidding you when I say we walked into the room and stopped in our tracks. This painting is a stunner.” (You can read more here!) Formerly the M Gallery of Art, Principle Gallery Charleston originally showed this beauty, but we now have the honor of displaying it at our Alexandria gallery! For those of you near enough to us to visit, be assured that “Life” is one of those pieces that, while lovely in photographs, is worth enjoying in its full glory in person.

You can check out a cool video Scott Christensen made of the stages of progress on this work here!


“Traveler” : GC Myers Exhibition Opens TONIGHT!


A talented painter (and a long-time cherished friend of Principle Gallery) with a unique style and a thoughtful and philosophical soul, GC Myers is back in Alexandria this weekend to join us for the opening of “Traveler,” his 15th solo exhibition at the gallery. “Traveler” is a gorgeous collection of works in a wide array of sizes, and we heartily encourage anyone who can to join the artist and the folks at Principle Gallery tonight for the opening reception, beginning at 6:30 PM!

Each of the 58 paintings in the show is unique and beautiful, but we thought we’d take a moment to share a fun fact about one of them: “The Ferryman,” a 9×5 acrylic painting included in this year’s GC Myers exhibition, happens to be the cover of a novel! Author William Thomas Simpson was seeking an image of a ferryman when he discovered Myers’ work, and contacted him to commission the book cover. You can click the image below to see the painting on the cover of “The Ferryman” on!

The Ferryman 72

Spotlight: Local Artists

At the gallery, we’re always being asked by curious folks whether or not all of work comes from artists who live locally. No, indeed, Principle Gallery searches far and wide to bring you phenomenal Contemporary Realism from all corners of the States, and even abroad! Luckily, though, we have found that some of these brilliant talents are living and working right in our own area. (And, as many DC Metropolitan area residents tend to do, we’re qualifying “local” as artists residing in DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia.) We decided to take a moment today to highlight some of these wonderful local artists.

Teresa Oaxaca

Teresa, in addition to being a DC area resident, is the youngest of the artists that we represent. Just in her mid-twenties, Teresa is already developing a very devoted following, and rightly so. Her work is always striking and unique, a reflection of her immense talent, fine international training, and charmingly quirky personality. Currently in the gallery is one of our favorite pieces we’ve gotten from Teresa and certainly one that grabs the attention of passerby, entitled “Late Hour.”


“Late Hour,” 38×54, oil on canvas

Bethanne Cople 

A plein air landscape painter, Bethanne travels frequently to find beautiful and insipiring scenery to paint. While she lives right here in Old Town Alexandria, Bethanne’s work features lanscapes from across the country, all created with an excellent eye for color and lush, loose brushstrokes. Beautiful and tranquil, these landscapes are proof of the artist’s passion for painting right out in the fresh outdoors. Below is a work, just arrived in the gallery last month, which was featured in an American Women Artists show at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum for Master and Signature members, and comes with a signed catalogue from that show.


“Desert Colors,” 9×14, oil on canvas panel

Kevin Fitzgerald

Born in Washington DC, Kevin Fitzgerald studied in Maryland and currently resides there on the Eastern Shore. His deep love for the beauty of nature and its power to touch the human soul and make us contemplate and appreciate life is reflected in his landscape pieces. Soft, ethereal brushwork and beautiful use of color characterize Kevin’s unique and lovely works. Keep an eye out for many new Kevin Fitzgerald works to arrive soon, as we prepare for a solo exhibition for him in March!


“Horizon Dawn,” 24×48, oil on canvas

Jorge Alberto

Originally from Cuba, hyperrealistic still life artist Jorge Alberto now resides and works in Baltimore, Maryland. Having worked several different jobs in the field of art and then relocated to Florence, Italy to perfect his skills in painting, Jorge is back in Maryland and living his dream of being a fine art painter. His pieces never fail to impress the viewer with the sense that one could truly reach out and touch the items that he portrays. Each piece is meticulously created and filled with precise details and beautiful, vivid color. Below is one of the great little paintings Jorge sent in for our December Small Works show last year. By the way…nope, that’s not even a real frame: Jorge’s just that talented!


“C is for Cat,” 12.5×12.5, oil on panel

Elizabeth Floyd 

We had the pleasure of first working with Elizabeth Floyd just last December during the Small Works show. Having originally studied in Washington State and Texas, Elizabeth now lives right here in Alexandria. Her still life paintings are just lovely, full of vivid color and simple but beautiful compositions. Having so quickly sold her works from the December show, we were so pleased to get some more work from Elizabeth last month, including this larger piece below.


“Hope, Love, and Expectations: Dreams of Spring,” 30×24, oil on canvas

Hyeseung Marriage-Song

You may remember this name from our recent post about Hyeseung! She is truly a fascinating and incredibly talented young woman, now living and working in Baltimore, Maryland after having started her painting career in New York City. Thoughtfully created and beautifully executed, Hyeseung’s work catches the attention of visitors to the gallery every time we’re lucky enough to get some new pieces by her. Below is a beautiful portrait which is currently being shown down in our Charleston, South Carolina location.


“Redhead in a Feathered Hat,” 28×18, oil on canvas

Robert Liberace

When it comes to art in the DC and Alexandria area, “Robert Liberace” is certainly a well-known name. This incredibly talented artist has been dubbed a “Living Master” and “The Artist’s Artist” and is renowned for his skill, particularly in depicting the human form. He has frequently taught at the The Art League of Virginia here in Alexandria, as well as other locations both in the States and abroad. We were thrilled to begin showing Robert’s work beginning last year, including this piece, which is one of two by this artist to be lent by Principle Gallery to the Arnot Art Museum’s exhibition “Re-Presenting Realism” in Elmira, New York.


“Zephyr,” 20×20, oil on panel

Don’t forget to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and check our website frequently to see more wonderful new work coming into the gallery!

Principle Gallery’s Beginnings

Back room

As a few of you may remember, King Street was actually not the first location of Principle Gallery!  We originally opened our doors in 1994 at 315 Cameron Street, just around the corner from our current location.  315 Cameron Street was a striking, historic townhouse that made the perfect setting for an art gallery.  Upon entering, you walked into a beautiful front parlor with an 18 foot ceiling which then led into the center of the space.  The center was an open loft and once upstairs on the second floor you could look down on both the front parlor and main room in the rear of the building.

315 Cameron Street
315 Cameron Street, Front room

It was a stunning venue full of natural light and we spent three wonderful years there before moving to 208 King Street.  208 King Street, also known historically as the Gilpin House, was an active commercial space even in the 1800s when George Gilpin ran his surveying business out of the front of the building and lived on the upper floors.  George Washington was one of his many patrons, as documented in a letter Washington wrote to Gilpin offering him one of many business opportunities.  More recently, the building housed the well-loved Gilpin Book Store.  Many people still talk about enjoying their weekend coffee in front of the fireplace while browsing the wide variety of newspapers Bill Rowan sold.  After 20 years in business, Bill retired and made way for 208 King Street to become the permanent home for Principle Gallery.

208 King Street
208 King Street