Charles Peale Polk, (March 17, 1767 – May 6, 1822), was a renowned
American portrait painter and the nephew of artist Charles Willson Peale.Charles
Peale Polk, (March 17, 1767 – May 6, 1822), was a renowned American portrait
painter and the nephew of artist Charles Willson Peale.
Charles Peale Polk, (March 17, 1767 – May 6, 1822), was a renowned American
portrait painter and the nephew of artist Charles Willson Peale.
Polk was born in Annapolis, Maryland, to Elizabeth Digby Peale and Robert Polk.
At age eight or ten (sources vary on the exact age), after being orphaned, he
was sent to Philadelphia to live with his uncle and study art. He was married by
the time he was eighteen and Philadelphia was his permanent residence. By the
time he was in his twenties, Polk was advertising himself as a portrait artist
in Baltimore newspapers. He was apparently not at all successful since he
returned to Philadelphia within a matter of a couple years, advertising his
services as a house and sign painter. But he continued his artistic pursuits,
and by 1800 he had opened exhibitions in Baltimore. In 1800, he held government
office in Washington, D.C. at the National Gallery of Art.
Polk’s earliest paintings were copies of his uncle's originals and he was high
dependent on his uncle's training and guidance. He continued to make copies of
many paintings including his own. It is said that he produced fifty-seven
reproductions of his George Washington portrait. He was commissioned to do
thirty five paintings and this was his largest group of works from any period.
He eventually opened a drawing school and a dry-goods business. Both ventures
failed and he moved to Frederick County, Maryland. During his period as a
politician, he produced few oil paintings. However, he did produce "verre
églomisé" miniatures which were made by scratching a gold leaf profile into a
glass plate and painting black in the surrounding areas. Ultimately, he took up
life as a farmer in Virginia two years before his death.
In his depiction of Anna Maria Cumpston he delicately depicts a girl holding a
flower. Her arms are awkwardly posed and her gaze is blank. Equally blank is her
facial expression, which is lifeless and lacks any emotional depiction. The
background shows some soft trees against a cloudy sky. To the right is an
unbalanced large countertop. The light values of the countertop are weighted on
the opposite side by the dark trees and floors. The dress is elegant and the
figure glows apparently bathed in light. The content seems to be meaningless and
chosen more for its visual appeal and shape. This work is very much like other
works of this time period and era.
In comparing Polk’s works to Joshua Johnson, they have very similar style in
positioning objects and creating composition. The awkwardness of the works is
actually somewhat appealing for both artists and probably deliberate. Both
artists often have subjects holding objects in a way that while unnatural also
brings interests and causes the hands to be shaped in a visually interesting
way. The art work of both avoids expressiveness and instead chooses to emphasize
capturing some likeness of the subject.
Anna Maria Cumpston. The National Gallery of Art.
Charles Peale Polk. Maryland ArtSource.
Charles Peale Polk – Biography. National Gallery of Art.
Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Peale_Polk"
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