Nathan Loda

American realist painter Nathan Loda has created a series of paintings for our restaurants. In Tysons, our host stand features a unique mural of a headless horse mural within the lush, rolling hills and Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. The horse’s body is often made complete with the head of the host standing behind it and greeting our guests.

At Founding Farmers & Distillers DC, we commissioned Loda to paint a portrait of a contemporary and hip Young George Washington. Affectionately called “Georgie with a Man Bun,” this portrait has created quite a stir with guests and the media. Modeled after the iconic Athenaeum Portrait of Washington featured on our one dollar bill, Loda’s portrait achieves a luminous quality by rendering a Grisaille – a sienna, blue, and white underpainting – before glazing the portrait with thin layers of oil paint. Young Washington materialized as Loda added each layer, tweaking facial features and introducing new accessories. Loda maintained trademark features like Washington’s heavy eyelids and familiar half-smile, while updating his look with more contemporary components like the man bun, a leather monogramed bracelet, Wayfarer sunglasses, and of course, a tumbler of Founding Spirits. The result is a character with an uncanny resemblance to our Founding Distiller, as if he were 25 years old and in vogue.

We commissioned this piece to represent our hopeful vision of a young Washington today, which in our world view would be a Washington who would have evolved to align with our condemnation of slavery and acknowledgment of the awfulness and tragedy of the countless injustices put upon enslaved people. Our restaurant pays tribute to our first president while simultaneously recognizing his participation in our country’s history of slavery and its continuing ramifications.

In King of Prussia, Loda’s paintings are the featured art in one of our dining rooms and help us detail the role of agriculture during the American Revolution and in the formation of our country. We commissioned Loda, whose ancestors were awarded some of Pennsylvania’s original farmland, to cover our walls with images representing our Founding Farmers and their contributions to our nation. Loda did extensive research for this project, including working with the head gardeners and historians at Mount Vernon and Monticello.

The portrait of Thomas Jefferson honors our third president and principal author of the Declaration of Independence, while detailing the importance of agriculture during the American Revolution and in the formation of our country. The art is designed to help us tell a story about the role of agriculture in gaining independence from the British monarchy. 

Jefferson is depicted in field clothes, hands on a plow, harvesting the fruits and vegetables of his land — which symbolizes his intellectual interest in the science of agriculture and his political focus on the importance of independent farmers to the future of the American economy. We recognize that Jefferson was not actively farming himself. He was a slave owner, and it was enslaved people – not independent farmers – who worked the land and planted the original seeds of American agriculture, helping the United States become a country founded on the self-sufficiency farming provides.

On the opposite wall is a portrait of the studious Benjamin Franklin, seen seated at a desk surrounded by his correspondence. In his hand is an American wild turkey feather quill pen, the bird he wanted as the nation’s icon. On his desk is a letter to his friend and colleague Jefferson, representing their ongoing conversations about the importance of sustainable agriculture to the country’s independence and future. Another letter, on his left, to the famous American botanist John Bartram, details the value of an innovative Chinese food product made from soybeans: tofu. Wheat is seen in the foreground, sugar in a bottle on the right, and soybeans in Franklin’s hand.

Loda has created four other paintings on Franklin’s wall that include produce he loved, such as Scotch cabbage, and produce he thought would help make America a world power, such as corn and soybeans. While we are detailing some of our country’s early agricultural roots, we also must acknowledge our country’s historical injustices. Franklin, Jefferson, and Bartram were slave owners, and the bedrock of our nation and our agriculture was built upon the unpaid and brutal labor of enslaved people. 

Nathan Loda, a Vienna, VA native, has created artwork for several of our restaurants, including the a contemporary take on our first president, Young Washington, with a man bun at Founding Farmers & Distillers and the striking Headless Horse host stand artwork found at Founding Farmers Tysons.

Loda received his MFA from George Mason University in 2015 and a BFA in painting from Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, WV in 2011. He is an adjunct painting and drawing professor at George Mason University and is represented by the Adah Rose Gallery in Kensington, MD. His studio work reflects his passion for history, storytelling, and the outdoors.

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