Corcoran Gallery of Art
The Peale Family: Creation of a Legacy,
- The Peale Family: Creation of
a Legacy, 1770-1870, the most comprehensive exhibition
of works by the Peale Family, America's first family of art is on display
at the Corcoran Gallery through July 6, 1997. This massive collection exquisitely
illustrates the profound influence that Charles Willson Peale, one of America's
most important artists, and his dynasty had on shaping American culture
and society. Of the more than 1,000 portraits painted by C.W. Peale, some
of his most famous creations were portraits of his friends George Washington
and Thomas Jefferson, as well as other founding fathers.
- Members of the Peale family are renowned not only for
their great skill as artists, but also for founding America's first continuous
public museums. Charles Willson Peale founded the first museum for the
arts and sciences 200 years ago in Philadelphia. On exhibition were his
own paintings and the skeleton of a mastodon which he had excavated and
pieced together. He later founded the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts,
which continues today. Peale's son Rembrandt imitated his father's institution
in the Baltimore Museum in 1815, and another son Rubens established a museum
in New York City in 1825.
- The patriarch, who named 10 of his 17 children after
artists, believed that anyone could be taught to paint. He did just that
with his sons Raphaelle, Rembrandt, Rubens, Titian, and his brother James.
They in turn passed down this artistic heritage to succeeding
- generations, in particular to James's daughters Anna,
Margaretta, and Sarah Miriam and nephew Charles Peale Polk. Each generation
thereafter has produced an artist. As one art historian has written: "The
Peales produced more artists than the Adams family did statesmen, or the
- This landmark exhibition features works by 10 Peale family
members. The three women artists in the show earned their livelihood by
painting, which was very unusual for 18th-and 19th-century ladies. Sarah
Miriam is acclaimed as America's first woman artist to make a career of
- The 173-item exhibit showcases the Peale's finest works,
including The Staircase Group, the sight of which so moved General George
Washington that he "took off his hat and bowed to it," according
to C.W. Peale biographer and descendant Charles Coleman Sellers; and Rubens
Peale with a Geranium which one art historian has called "one of the
most original images in the history of American
- The exhibition includes portraits, miniatures, conversation
pieces, still life and landscapes, as well as the Grizzly Bear Ornaments
and other memorabilia from the Rogers and Clark Expedition.
- Organized by the Trust for Museum Exhibitions, the exhibition's
guest curator is the pre-eminent Peale scholar, Dr. Lillian B. Miller,
Historian of American Culture at the Smithsonian Institutions National
Portrait Gallery and Editor of the Peale Family Papers housed there. The
catalogue is published by Abbeville Press. The project was made possible
through generous grants from the Henry Luce Foundation, Inc. and the National
Endowment for the Arts. The tour of the exhibition includes the Philadelphia
Museum of Art and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.
Search for more articles
and essays on American art in Resource Library. See America's Distinguished Artists
for biographical information on historic artists.
This page was originally published in 1997 in Resource
Library Magazine. Please see Resource Library's Overview section for
Copyright 2012 Traditional
Fine Arts Organization, Inc., an Arizona nonprofit
corporation. All rights reserved.