|Self-portrait with Angelica,1782-85,|
Charles Willson Peale, seen here
painting his wife while his daughter
looks over his shoulder, offering
perhaps a bit of unwanted help.
Charles Willson Peale was born in 1741. As a young man, his first interest in art was piqued when he journeyed to Norfolk, Virginia, to purchase leather for his saddle shop. There he saw the work of portrait painters which he considered quite poor. In a typical "I can do better than that" frame of mind, he returned to his native Philadelphia and tried his hand at it. He read all the instruction manuals on painting he could come by, and took lessons from an artist in Annapolis. Encouraged, he set off for Boston to try his luck in this wealthy commercial center. He had little success. At one point, he was down to selling his watch to have money to return to Philadelphia. But just before he did, he received a commission for a small portrait. He was paid twelve dollars. Back home in Philadelphia, despite his poor showing in Boston, his friends and neighbors convinced him he had some talent. In fact, so much so they took up a collection and sent him to England for three years to study under the great Benjamin West, who had, himself, moved there from the colonies a few years before. When Peale returned in 1769, he tried again, setting up shop in his hometown this time. This time, he started getting commissions. During the next few years, as his skills matured, he became the most outstanding portrait painter not just in Philadelphia but in all the colonies.
|The Staircase Group,1795, |
Charles Willson Peale.
George Washington, in passing by,
is said to have greeted the "fool
the eye" painting of two of Peale's