Posts Tagged ‘Charles Willson Peale’

Rembrandt Peale, George Washington, 1824, Oil on canvas, 30 x 25 in.

George Washington, 1824. Rembrandt Peale (1778-1860). Oil on canvas, 30 x 25 in. New Britain Museum of American Art, Gift of Dr. Timothy McLaughlin.

Rembrandt Peale is known for his portraits of George Washington, one of which the New Britain Museum of American Art is delighted to have as a new acquisition this Presidents month. Rembrandt Peale is supposedly the last artist for whom Washington sat shortly preceding his death. Born in 1778 in Pennsylvania to the famous painter Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827), Rembrandt began drawing at age eight. His father tutored him in art and the natural sciences, and he produced his first self-portrait at age thirteen. Peale’s most talented area and source of financial mainstay was painting portraits that were solid, accurate, and straightforward. By 1795, he painted a portrait of George Washington that honestly spoke to the hero’s humanity. Peale greatly admired and was inspired by the work of Gilbert Stuart (1755-1828), who is known for his Vaughan and Athenaeum portraits of the first President. (more…)


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Staircase Group (Portrait of Raphaelle Peale and Titian Ramsay Peale), 1795. Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827). Oil on canvas, 89 1/2 x 39 3/8 in. The George W. Elkins Collection, Philadelphia Museum of Art.

The Peales were a very gifted American family, with over six of the members working as successful artists – three of which were women. It was rare enough for women to be successful artists during the 18th and 19th centuries and rarer still for them to be related. Their triumph over the art world would perhaps not have come about if it were not for the first artist of the family – Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827). Though Peale began his career as a saddle maker, he soon discovered that he had a talent for painting and sought tutelage under John Singleton Copley (1738-1815) and later Benjamin West (1738-1820), two prominent American portrait artists. Peale, too, went on to become a celebrated portrait artist best known for his portraits of George Washington. Some even consider him to be one of the first “trompe l’oeil” painters because of his well-known piece The Staircase Group, a portrait of two of his sons. The painting is framed like a doorway, depicting Raphaelle (1774-1825) and Titian Peale (1799-1885) climbing up the stairs to their bedroom, presumably, and looking back at the viewer. The “trompe l’oeil” aspect of the painting is the real wooden stair Peale has added at the foot of the painting, seemingly inviting the viewer to follow Raphaelle and Titian up the stairs. (more…)

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Benjamin Colman, 1739. John Smibert (1688–1751). Oil on canvas, 49 3/4 x 39 3/4 in. New Britain Museum of American Art, Harriet Russell Stanley Fund, 1948.01.

Today, we are taking you on a tour of portrait paintings in the Colonial and Early Republican Art Gallery situated on the first floor of the NBMAA.

In 1607, religious and political unrest brought the first English settlers to Jamestown, Virginia. Europeans would continue to seek religious freedom and economic opportunity in the New World, as exemplified by the Puritans who arrived at Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1620. North America demanded a new way of life.

Unaccustomed to the land and its resources, the settlers had to learn to cultivate crops and survive in the wilderness. Only later, as cities grew, did commerce develop. The demands of everyday life delayed the introduction of art into American culture for generations. Thus, the earliest painting in the Museum’s collection dates to 1739. (more…)

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