Sunday, November 14, 2010

Still Life Studies of American Fruits & Vegetables by James Peale (1749-1831)

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James Peale (1749-1831). c 1824 Still Life with Chinese Export Basket.

This time of year, when the gardens in our part of the country are just past their peak & all of the fruit and vegetable stands are beginning to wind down, I think of James Peale's still lifes; where he captures forever the Mid-Atlantic freshness, that we are about to lose.

1795 Detail. James Peale (1739-1741). The Artist & His Family. Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia.

In 1771, American painter Charles Willson Peale wrote to his London teacher, Pennsylvania expatriate artist Benjamin West, about his youngest sibling Jemmie, "the Youngest will be a painter, he coppys very well, and has painted a little from life." James Peale (1749-1831) was 23, and the die was cast.

James Peale (1749-1831). A Porcelain Bowl with Fruit.

James, who lost his father when he was an infant, was raised by his widowed mother & trained by his oldest brother Charles, to be a saddle maker & a painter. Charles Willson Peale had completed his apprenticeship in saddlery in 1762, just as James was reaching the age when a colonial boy might enter his apprenticeship. Charles had married, opened his saddle shop, and then fled creditors for Boston, leaving James to be apprenticed to a cabinetmaker-carpenter in Charlestown, Maryland, in 1765.

James Peale (1749-1831). c 1820 Still Life Balsam Apples and Vegetables.

James Peale began working in his brother’s painting studio about 1769, when Charles returned to Annapolis after 2 years of training in London under Benjamin West. James' carpentry skills made him indispensable in making frames for his brother’s paintings. In return Charles gave his brother lessons in keeping a sketchbook for drawing & in painting.

James Peale (1749-1831). c 1824 Still Life with Watermelon.

James Peale continued working in his brother’s Annapolis studio; until January 14, 1776, when he accepted a commission as an ensign in the army. Within 3 months he was promoted to captain, and after 3 years in the Revolutionary army, he received a personal letter from George Washington asking him to remain in service.

James Peale (1749-1831). c 1824 Still Life with Chinese Basket.

But in 1779, James Peale resigned his commission and moved to Philadelphia. He rejoined his brother Charles, who had moved there with his wife and family, & once again lived & worked in his brother’s studio. James Peale lived with his brother until 1782, when he married Mary Claypoole (1753–1829), sister of artist James Claypoole, Jr. (c 1743–1800).

James Peale (1749-1831). c 1824 Still Life.

During the 18th century, James continued to make frames for Charles’s oil paintings & began painting his own delicate miniature portraits as well as landscapes dotted with people, especially his family members. The brothers worked together painting & on a variety of projects such as making floats for the 1788 Federal Procession, the grand parade held in Philadelphia to commemorate the new United States Constitution. And the brothers worked apart developing their own distinctive styles & projects.

James Peale (1749-1831). c 1829 Still Life with Fruit on a Tabletop.

By the turn of the century, James began painting successful history paintings & exquisite neoclassical fruit still-life paintings. He continued to paint ivory miniatures, until his eyesight began to fail about 1820. Toward the end of his life, James Peale explored the romantic sublime in landscapes including thunderstorms, violently uprooted trees, & grand mountains.

James Peale (1749-1831). c 1829 Still Life

Just like his brother Charles Willson Peale, James Peale taught his children to paint. Three of his gifted daughters became accomplished painters. Anna Claypoole Peale (1798–1871) became a miniaturist & still-life painter. Margaretta Angelica Peale (1795–1882) painted trompe l’oeil subjects (similar to those of her cousin Raphaelle), fruit still lifes, & oil portraits. Sarah Miriam Peale (1800–1885) also became a fine portraitist & still-life painter.

James Peale (1749-1831). Fruit in a Basket.

James Peale painted miniatures, portraits, & historical paintings in his early career when he was working with his brother Charles Willson Peale.

James Peale (1749-1831). Fruits of Autumn

By the turn of the century, he began to explore still lifes & landscapes on his own. These are the still lifes from that period.

James Peale (1749-1831). Still Life with An Abundance of Fruit.

Between the period Peale began painting these still lifes & the end of his life, when he painted the fearsome sublime in landscapes of thunderstorms, violently uprooted trees, & towering mountains, Peale painted continued to paint these exquisite neo-classical still lifes.

James Peale (1749-1831). Still Life with Apples, Grapes, Pear.

James Peale (1749-1831). Still Life with Grapes and Apples on a Plate.

James Peale (1749-1831). Vegetable Still Life.
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1 comment:

Rondi said...

Lovely, Thank you for posting these. I re-enact about this period and it's nice to see what they grew and ate.