Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827)
Oil on canvas
Overall: 26 1/4 x 22 in. ( 66.7 x 55.9 cm )
Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827) established himself in Philadelphia in the late eighteenth century as one of the foremost portrait painters in America, having spent two years abroad in the late 1760s studying his craft in London under the tutelage of the American-born artist, Benjamin West. Later in his career, Peale devoted himself mainly to the creation and management of the Peale Museum in Philadelphia. In his last self-portrait, Peale chose to commemorate his greatest contribution to science: the excavation of two fossilized mastodon skeletons from a glacial bog near Newburgh, New York in 1801. Peale is pictured with an enormous leg bone, which was incorporated into the reconstructed skeleton and displayed in his museum. The Society purchased the portrait from a descendant of the artist, Adaleane (Summers) Greenwood, in 1940.
Sellers, Charles Coleman, Portraits and Miniatures by Charles Willson Peale, The Transactions of the American Philosophical Society, Vol. 42, Part I, Philadelphia: 1952, p. 163. Catalogue of American Portraits in The New-York Historical Society, New Haven: Yale University Press, Vol. 2, 1974, p 608. Ward, David C., "Celebration of Self: The portraiture of Charles Willson Peale and Rembrandt Peale, 1822-27," American Art, Vol. 7, No. 1 (Winter 1993), pp. 8-27. Ward, David C., Charles Willson Peale, Art and Selfhood in the Early Republic. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2004, frontispiece, pp:156-9. Johnston, Patricia, ed., Seeing High & Low: Representing Social Conflict in American Visual Culture, Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2006, p. 16.
Purchase, James B. Wilbur Fund
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.