Self-Portrait with Wife Rachel and Daughter Angelica
Early American painting consisted almost exclusively of portrait painting. As soon as Americans achieved a prosperous society, but the beginning of the 18th century, they emulated the middle class of their English origins in desiring portraits as symbols of status.
From the earliest examples, American paintings displayed an uncompromising realism. This penchant for unidealized realism would be a trend in American painting lasting until the twentieth century. The sometimes unflattering realism is due perhaps to the lack of academic training and to the American artists relying solely on visual observation of detail in order to render a good likeness. This contrasted with the academic training European artists received in which they were advised to flatter their sitters.
Peale was one of the three great painters of the American colonial period. Although he studied the grandiose neoclassical style in England before the Revolution, he resumed a basic realist style on his return home. Portraits such as these, where the depicted sitters interact affectionately with one another give an intimacy and warmth to his portraits not obvious in English portraiture at the time. The daughter on the right, Margaretta Angelica, became a painter as did her six siblings.
Artform: PAINTING AND DRAWING, Pre-20th Century
Artist: Peale, Charles Willson
Artist Dates: 1741-1827
Country/Culture: United States
Period: 18th century
Medium: oil on canvas
Size: 91 x 69cm
Museum: Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Texas
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