Friday, July 13, 2012

Peale, Rembrandt

Woman with Turban
oil on canvas
17 1/2 x 21 1/4 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museums

Rembrandt Peale (1778 - 1860) shares a birthday with George Washington and is a son of a well-known artist, Charles Willson Peale, suggesting that he had a certain fate shaped out for him at birth. He was an American artist and museum keeper. A prolific portrait painter, he was especially acclaimed for his likenesses of presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Peale's style was influenced by French Neoclassicism after a stay in Paris in his early thirties.

He was born in Pennsylvania. His father, Charles Willson Peale, a notable artist, taught him to paint scenery and portraiture, and tutored him in the arts and natural sciences, lectured on having a healthy mind, and given moral instruction. Rembrandt began drawing at the age of eight. In 1787, Charles Willson Peale introduced his son Rembrandt to George Washington, and the young aspirant artist watched his father paint the future president. In 1795, at the age of 17, Rembrandt painted an aging Washington, making him appear far more aged than in reality. The portrait was well received, and Rembrandt had made his debut. In 1806, Charles Willson Peale wrote to his daughter: “Rembrandt is very successful, his portraits give universal satisfaction, he cannot execute fast enough for the demand, and he is not wanting industry in consequence he is beginning to raise his price for portraits.”
In 1822, Rembrandt moved to New York City. He continued to paint other noted portraits than George Washington, such as those of the third president Thomas Jefferson while he was in office. In New York, he became a founding member of the National Academy of Design.