Feel Art Again: Charles Willson Peale (part 3)

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Today is our final installment in this week's three-part 'Feel Art Again' mini-series. The mini-series explores Charles Willson Peale's fascinating life and artwork.

On Tuesday, we looked at the artist and his family, accompanied by one of his seven self-portraits, painted in 1822. Yesterday, we delved into his role as a naturalist, his museum, and his self-portrait, "The Artist in His Museum." And today, we'll explore his role as an American patriot, accompanied by one of his most well-known paintings, "'George Washington at Princeton."

The Patriot

1. A supporter of America's independence and a member of the Sons of Liberty, Charles Willson Peale traveled to Philadelphia, then the capital, in 1776. While there, he painted portraits of American notables, including John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson, and Alexander Hamilton, as well as visitors from other countries.

2. Peale is best known for his portraits of George Washington. Washington sat for his first portrait ever in 1772, for Charles Peale; six more sittings would follow. From those seven sittings, Peale produced almost 60 portraits. A 1779 full-length portrait, "Washington at Princeton" (shown above), was sold in January 2005 for $21.3 million, setting the record for the highest price paid for an American portrait.

3. Peale raised troops for the War of Independence and, by 1777, had gained the rank of captain in the Pennsylvania militia. While in the field, he painted miniature portraits of officers.

4. As the remnants of George Washington's army arrived on the bank of the Delaware River, Peale was crossing the river from Trenton to Pennsylvania himself. He described Washington's famous crossing as "the most hellish scene I have ever beheld."

5. Only after serving in the Pennsylvania state assembly from 1779 to 1780 did Peale return to painting full-time.

6. A World War II Liberty Ship was named SS Charles Willson Peale in honor of the painter/naturalist/patriot extraordinaire.

A larger version of "George Washington at Princeton" is available here.

'Feel Art Again' appears every Tuesday and Thursday.

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April 17, 2008 - 3:45am
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