(active 1700s/1800s)

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      • Peale   A family of American painters and naturalists. The two earliest members were Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827) and his brother James (1749-1831). Charles was a saddler and woodcarver who had lessons from Copley, went to London 1767-9 and worked under West, returning to settle in Philadelphia. He painted a number of portraits of the leading figures in the Revolutionary War including the earliest (1772) of Washington. In 1786 he founded the Peale Museum and from then on was principally concerned with the scientific aspect of his museum - e.g. in 1806 he exhibited the skeleton of the first American mastodon. He began to paint again at the age of seventy-four and died at eighty-six, his death being brought on by carrying a trunk for a mile on his way to court his fourth wife. He wrote an autobiography, and his three wives gave him seventeen children who were ambitiously christened, the boys including Raphaelle, Rembrandt, Titian, Rubens, and the girls being christened Angelica Kauffmann, Rosalba Camera, and Sophonisba (after Anguissola). Raphaelle (1774-1825) painted some very fine and austere still-lifes, not at all Dutch in feeling, but far closer to Spanish 17th-century work; and, indeed a Sanchez-Cotan (now in San Diego Cal.) was in Philadelphia in 1820. He was the best painter of the family, but his attempt with Rembrandt Peale to run the family museum was a failure; he was unhappily married and eventually took to drink. Rembrandt (1778-1860) also painted still-life and some very fine, detailed portraits (Rubens Peale with a Geranium Plant: Washington, NG). He visited England in 1802=3 and worked under West and painted a number of French statesmen in Paris 1808-10 for his father's museum. He settled in New York in 1822 and was one of the founders of the National Academy (1826), but revisited Europe in 1829/30, and finally returned to Philadelphia in 1831, although he signed and dated a portrait in London in 1833. He was one of the first American artists to practise lithography and he also painted one of the best-known portraits of Washington, the so-called 'Porthole Portrait' painted in 1823, twenty-four years after Washington's death. The original is now in the Capitol, Washington, in the Vice-President's room, but about eighty replicas are known. Rubens (1784-1865) had poor sight from birth, and oversaw his father's museum, 1800-1822, but financial troubles caused him to sell out to the Barnum circus in 1837. He painted about 130 landscapes, still-life, animal and bird pictures. His son Titian Ramsay II was a professional naturalist. Rubens's brother Titian the Elder (1799-1881) was also a painter, but less important.

        Charles Willson's brother James was a miniaturist in Philadelphia and may have been one of the first painters of still-life in America. He had seven children, five of whom were painters, but they were less eccentncally named than their cousins.

        There are works by one or other of the Peales in many American museums including Baltimore, Boston (thirteen in all), Detroit, New York (Met. Mus. and Hist. Soc.), Philadelphia, Richmond Va, Washington (NG, Corcoran) and Worcester Mass., and one in London (NPG).

      • Source: The Penguin Dictionary of Art and Artists (Penguin Reference Books)

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