Charles Willson, artist, born in Chestertown, Maryland,
16 April, 1741; died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 22 February, 1827. He
followed for some time the trade of a saddler in Annapolis, but, having seen a
portrait while visiting Norfolk, Virginia, he determined to attempt art, and
on his return he executed a likeness of himself. His success induced him to
change his vocation from saddle making to portrait painting.
He lived in
Boston in 1768'9, where he had some instruction from John
Singleton Copley, and in 1770 he went to London, England, bearing
letters to Benjamin West, who
received him kindly, and whose pupil he became. In London, Peale also studied modeling
in wax, casting and molding in plaster, engraving in mezzotinto, and miniature painting.
to Annapolis in 1774, began painting portraits, and two years later
established himself in Philadelphia. Later he became a captain of volunteers,
and was present at the battles of
Trenton and Germantown.
He also began to take an active interest in political affairs, and was a
member of the legislature in 1779.
turned his attention to natural history. A manmoth that had been disinterred
for him in Ulster county, N. Y., in 1801, led his mind into this new channel,
and the idea of forming a museum occurred to him. He forthwith became a
collector of all manner of natural curiosities, and with these, and a large
number of portraits, opened, in 1802, "Peale's Museum" to the
public. He gave lectures on natural history, and occupied himself also with
In 1791, and
again in 1794, he made earnest but ineffectual endeavors to form an art
academy in Philadelphia, and he lived to assist in establishing the
Pennsylvania academy of the fine arts and to contribute to seventeen of its
annual exhibitions. Peale is notable rather for versatility than for real
genius in any direction. He took up, in turn, the making of coaches,
harnesses, clocks, and watches, besides working as a silversmith, and he was
also soldier, politician, naturalist, taxidermist, and dentist. It is said of
him that he "sawed his own ivory for his miniatures, moulded the
glasses, and made the shagreen cases." In the course of his various
studies he became an author also, his writings including an essay on "Building
Wooden Bridges" (1797); " Discourse Introductory to a Course
of Lectures on Natural History . . . " (Philadelphia, 1800) ; "Epistle
on the Means of Preserving Health" (Philadelphia, 180a) ; and "Domestic
his fame rests mainly on his achievements as a portrait painter, and is due in
a great measure to the circumstance of his having been enabled to associate
his name with that of Washington,
who gave him, it is asserted, no less than fourteen sittings. He executed in
1772 his first portrait of Washington, who was then a Virginia colonel, and
after that painted him repeatedly during tile Revolutionary war, and afterward
several of these portraits he engraveded. He was at one time the only portrait painter
in the colonies, and his services were much in demand. Among his portraits,
many of which have been engraved, are those of George and Martha
Washington, John Hancock, Robert
Morris, Nathanael Greene, Horatio
Gates, Benjamin Lincoln, Baron
Steuben, Count Rochambeau,
Baron DeKalb, Benjamin Franklin, Peyton
Randolph, Thomas Jefferson, Charles
Carroll, Lord Stifling, Bishop White, Albert Oallatin, Dr. Benjamin
Rush, Count Volney, Timothy Pickering,
John Witherspoon, and Alexander
Hamilton. Those of James Monroe, Andrew
Jackson, John Quincy Adams, John
C. Calhoun, and Henry Clay were
painted in the winter of 1818'19.
The New York
historical society owns four portraits by him Washington, Hamilton, John born
Bordley, and Pieter Johan Van Berekel. His "Christ Healing the Sick at
the Pool of Bethesda" was painted in his eighty-first year, and his
last work was a full-length portrait of himself at tile age of eighty-three.
It is now in the Philadelphia academy. See Elizabeth born Johnston's "Original
Portraits of Washington" (Boston, 1882)" Willitun Dunlap's "
History of the Arts of Design in the United States" (New York, 1834);
and Seharf's "History of Philadelphia" (Philadelphia,
His son, Rembrandt,
artist, born in Bucks county, Pa., 22 Feb., 1778; died in Philadelphia, 3
Oct., 1860, showed a talent for art at an early age, and was but seventeen
when he executed a portrait of Washington, from whom he was fortunate enough
to obtain three sittings, immediately after this, in
1796, he went to Charleston, S.C.,
where he was employed until 1801, in
which year he went to England to
study under Benjamin West.
in London he painted some portraits, and in 1803
turned to the United States, finding sufficient occupation in Savannah,
Charleston, New York, and Philadelphia. He visited Paris in 1807, and again in
1809, to paint the portraits of distinguished Frenchmen, many of which
pictures were afterward placed in his father's museum, and to study in the art
galleries of the city. From the last trip he returned in 1810, and again
opened a studio in Philadelphia. He painted in that city, New York, Baltimore,
and Boston until 1829, and then went abroad again, visiting France, and
spending sixteen months in Italy.
In 1832 he
went to England, and established himself in 1833 in London, where he exhibited
at the Royal academy, but the death of his son forced him to return. Peale was
president of the American academy, succeeding Col. Trumbull,
and was one of the original members of the Academy of design. On his removal
to Philadelphia in 1827 he was made an honorary member. His numerous portraits
include those of Baron Cuvier, Bernardin de Saint Pierre, Jean Antoine Houdon,
at the Pennsylvania academy of fine arts, Thomas
Jefferson, Mrs. James Madison,
Thomas Sully, Com. Oliver H. Perry,
Rammohun Roy, G. W. Bethune, William Bainbridge, Dr. Joseph Priestley, and
Stephen Deca, fur, owned by the New York historical society. lake his father,
he painted Washington several
times, the last and most notable portrait being executed in 1823. It was
exhibited in the principal cities of the United States and Europe in 1829, and
in 1832 was bought by congress for 82,000. In 1859'60 he delivered a lecture
on "Washington and His Portraits" in most of the large
cities of the Union.
noted figure compositions are "Napoleon
on Horseback" (1810); "Babes in the Wood"; "Song
of the Shirt"; " Jupiter and Io" (1813); "Lvsippa
on the Rock" : "Roman Daughter"; "Ascent of
Elijah"; and "Court of Death" (1820).
versatility almost equaled that of his father. He was one of the first artists
to practice lithography in the United States, gaining a silver medal at the
Franklin institute in 1827 for a portrait of Washington. Like his father, he
lectured on natural history. He was the author of "An Account of
the Skeleton of the Mammoth " (London, 1802); "Historical
Disquisition on the Mammoth" (1803); "Notes on Italy"
(Philadelphia, 1831) ; "Graphics" (1841) ; and "Reminiscruces
of Art and Artists" (1845). He also edited tile "Portfolio of
an Artist" (1839), and contribted articles and
translations to the "Crayon" and other periodicals.
Raphaelle, artist, born in Annapolis, M(1., 17 Feb., 1774" died in
Philadelphia, 25 March, 1825. He began painting portraits in 1804, but paid
also much attention to the painting of still-life subjects, in which branch of
art he was very successful. His brother Rembrandt said of him "He may
perhaps be considered the first, in point of time, who adopted this branch of
painting in America."
Titian Ramsey, artist, born in Philadelphia in 1800" died there, 13
March, 1885, was much devoted to the study of natural history, and held office
in the Philadelphia academy of natural sciences, He accompanied the South sea
exploring expedition in 1838'42, under Lieut. Charles Wilkes, as a naturalist,
and drew several of the plates in one of the volumes of reports on the
expedition, that of John Cassin, on "Mammalogy and Ornithology"
(Philadelphia, 1858). In his artistic labors he appears also to have devoted
himself entirely to the delineation of animal life. lie executed most of the
plates in the 1st and 4th volumes of Charles Lucien Bonaparte's "American
Ornithology" (1825'33), and exhibited watercolor drawings of animals
at the Pennsylvania academy of fine arts. From 1849 till 1872 he was an
examiner in the patent office at Washington. He was the author of "Mammalia
and Ornithology" (1848). Joseph Sabin says that the volume "was
suppressed, and is of the greatest raritv."
A brother of
Charles Willson, James, artist, born in Annapolis in 1749" died in
Philadelphia, 24 May, 1831, served during the Revolution as an officer of the
Continental line. tie turned his attention principally to portrait painting,
executing many miniatures and portraits in oil, including a full-length
portrait of Washington, which has been engraved.
his portraits of Washington is in the New York historical society, the other,
painted in 1795, in Independence Hall, Philadelphia. He painted also some
landscapes, and even attempted historical composition. Among his larger
pictures are "A Rencontre between Col. Allen McLane and Two British
Horsemen" (1811) "View of the Battle of Princeton"
and "A View of Belfield Farm, near Germantown" (1818).
James, born in Philadelphia, 6 March, 1779" died there, 27 Oct., 1876,
engaged in banking, but devoted his leisure hours to the study of art., and
became known as a marine and landscape painter. In 1813 he exhibited, at the
Columbia society of artists, a view of High street bridge. His other works
include a painting of an engagement between the privateer schooner "Cornet,"
of Baltimore, and a Portuguese sloop-of-war" "View of
Germantown" (1820)" "View of Water-Gap and Breaking Away
of a Storm" (1824)" and "Fairmount Water Works"
James's daughter, Anna Claypoole, artist, born in Philadelphia, 6 March,
1791" died there, 25 Dec., 1878, also devoted herself at first to still-life
subjects, but afterward followed miniature painting. She executed miniatures
of Gen. Lallemand, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson (1819), and Com. William
Bainbridge. She married William Staughton, D.D., and subsequently Gen. William
daughter, Sara|, M., artist, born in Philadelphia, 19 May, 1800" died
there, 4 Feb., 1885, studied under her father and uncle, and began to paint still-life
subjects about 1816. Later she executed portraits of Com. William Bainbridge
(1822), Henry A. Wise, Caleb Cushing, Dixon H. Lewis, and other .public men.
Lafayette accorded her four sittings In 1825. Her professional life was spent
in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, and St. Louis.
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Charles Willson Peale - (1741-1827). Born in 1741 in Queen Anne's County,
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