By Darla McCammon
Lakeland Art Association
WARSAW — Compare this more formal work above to that of Mary Cassett from our column last week. What a difference! Charles Willson Peale was an early American painter and this family portrait of The Peale Family is much more traditional and formal in spite of the smiling faces and somewhat casual setting. This work was first shown in 1773 but later completed in 1809. The delay was because of the dog! This work of art can be viewed today at the New York Historical Society.
It is believed that Peale created this work in order to illustrate his abilities in creating portraits. Peale is shown with the palette of tools in his hand and an unfinished portrait behind him.
The Peale family had a dog named Argus who was named after the pet in Homer’s Odyssey. The reason for the questionable dates of completion for the painting exists with the dog Argus. He was added to the work almost 35 years after the original was done! It is not known if the dog was alive at the first date or the second, which could have been a memorial.
Peale was an extraordinary person with many talents. I found it difficult to believe he would aspire to all these endeavors with as many wives as he married, and at least sixteen children that he fathered. He was, in addition to being a good portrait painter and artist, a soldier, a scientist, an inventor, a politician and a naturalist. Foremost an artist, Peale studied under some excellent teachers such as Copley and even traveled to England where he studied under Benjamin West. His fame spread due to his continual production of both miniature and full size portraits of those in the military. He painted Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson, and Alexander Hamilton, but he created about sixty portraits of George Washington. His most valuable painting sold at auction about fifteen years ago for $21.3 million. The subject? George Washington at Princeton
The dog? What is your guess as to its’ lineage and pedigree (or muttigree)? It was obviously here in the U.S. in the Northeast during the late 1700’s. Just for fun, if you think you can identify the breed of the dog in Peale’s portrait, send me an email at the address below and let’s see what kind of response we get from everyone!
Please do not forget to attend the free “Meet the Artist” presentation by Andy Tomasik on April 29 this coming Saturday from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. Light breakfast refreshments will be served and you will very much enjoy his work. Just park at the Wagon Wheel theater and come in to the lobby to see the work, which is fascinating, and meet the artist. I will be there also, so please come up and introduce yourself!
Next week: another pet portrait.
Upcoming and Current Events:
- Warsaw City Hall Art Gallery will be changing. Stay tuned, but do visit the student art now on exhibit. Free 8 a.m. – 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.
- Current exhibit at Lakeland Art Gallery has a few more days. It is excellent; please visit 11:30 a.m – 4:30 p.m. this Wednesday through Saturday.
For more information on topics in this column, please contact Darla McCammon at [email protected] or (574) 527-4044.