Charles Wilson Peale

American , 1741 - 1827

Born in 1741, Charles Willson Peale was best known as an American painter who was the most prominent portraitist of the Federal period. In 1767 he studied in London with the American- born historical painter, Benjamin West. In 1776 he settled permanently in Philadelphia. Peale painted portraits of numerous military leaders, including fourteen of George Washington.

Peale was also an avid naturalist and in 1786 he established a museum of specimens in Independence Hall, Philadelphia. He was one of the founders of Philadelphia’s Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1805. One of his most recognized works in a life-size trompe l’oeil portrait of his two sons mounting a spiral staircase. Several of Peale’s seventeen children also became artists, most notably Rembrandt Peale and Raphaelle Peale.


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