Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Raphaelle Peale

Basket of Peaches
oil on wood
34.9 x 49.8 cm
other details unknown

Raphaelle Peale (1774-1825), born in Annapolis, Maryland, is considered America’s first professional still life painter, imbued his still lifes with religious and political symbolism and structured his compositions with the symmetry and precision of Rational-era painting. Most of his paintings are small in scale, and depict a few objects - usually foodstuffs - arranged on a tabletop before a darkened background. He exhibited frequently at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and elsewhere.

He was the fifth child of a painter, though eldest surviving. He grew up in Philadelphia and was trained by his father as an artist. His first professional exhibition was in 1795 at the age of 21.

By 1806 he had begun to suffer the symptoms of arsenic and mercury poisoning brought on by his work as a taxidermist in his father's museum. In 1809 he was hospitalized with delirium, and for the rest of his life he suffered debilitating attacks almost yearly. By 1813, he was unable to walk without crutches. After the downturn in his health, and after reportedly indulging in a night of heavy drinking, his health destroyed and died at age 51 at his home in Philadelphia.