Charles Willson Peale

Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827) was a prolific artist and has been the subject of many books and articles. Peale was born in Maryland. He may have taken early painting lessons from John Hesselius. According to Peale’s Autobiography, he was inspired to become a painter after viewing some bad paintings while on a trip to Norfolk, Virginia. He worked in Accomack County, Virginia in 1766 and returned multiple times to Virginia from 1772-1775. Peale studied in London with the Pennsylvanian artist Benjamin West from 1767-1769. Before the American Revolution, when Peale joined the army, he enjoyed the hospitality of Virginia planters. He traveled through Virginia earning money through portrait commissions while trying to work himself out of debts that were held against him in Annapolis and Philadelphia. He settled in Philadelphia in 1776.

Peale’s papers have been published: Lillian B. Miller, et al., eds. The Selected Papers of Charles Willson Peale and His Family, 5 vols. (New Haven: Published for the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution by Yale University Press, 1983-2000)

An extensive catalogue of Peale’s known portraits has also been published, along with known references to the paintings:
Charles Coleman Sellers, “Portraits and Miniatures by Charles Willson Peale,” Transactions of the American Philosophical Society (1952): 1-369 and “Charles Willson Peale with Patron and Populace. A Supplement to “Portraits and Miniatures by Charles Willson Peale” with a Survey of His Work in Other Genres,” Transactions of the American Philosophical Society (1969): 1-146.