Charles Willson Peale

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General George Washington, 1779-1780.

Charles Willson Peale (Queen Anne's Co., MD, 1741 – Philadelphia, 1827) was an American Colonial Era portrait painter, scientist, inventor, founder of museums and art societies; Peale was one of the universal men of the eighteenth century, a man whose talent and interests ran in a hundred different directions: inventor, mechanic, silversmith, watchmaker, millwright, patriot, soldier, politician and naturalist.[1] He studied under Benjamin West in London. He also visited the studios of such important British portrait painters as Joshua Reynolds, Francis Cotes and Allan Ramsay and studied the techniques of miniature painting, sculpture and engraving.[2]

Peale's faith in the educational value of art led him to establish a painting academy in Philadelphia as early as 1795.[3] Peale founded the Philadelphia Museum or the Peale Museum in 1786; later the Peale's Baltimore Museum and Gallery of Fine Arts occupied the first building erected as a museum in the United States; Rembrandt Peale, his son, opened this museum on August 15, 1814.[1] During the American Revolution he opposed British mistreatment of the colonists and joined the Sons of Liberty.[4]

Father of 17 children, including the artists Raphaelle Peale, Rembrandt Peale, Rubens Peale and Titian Peale and brother of James Peale, Charles Willson Peale was the patriarch of the The Peale Family, the First Family of American art.

Jack-of-all-trades and master of several, Charles Willson Peale was in many respects a boy who never grew up, as several of his contemporaries noted: a pacifist who never lost his love of bright uniforms, an idealist with the manner of a promoter, a moralist who loved a good time. Curious, noisy and upright, he came as close as any man could to embodying the American spirit in all the joy and optimism of its youth.[1]

Charles W Peale The Exhumation of the Mastadon.jpeg

Exhuming the First American Mastodon, 1806.

See also

The Artist in His Museum, 1822.


External links