The Peale Family

Charles Willson Peale, The Artist in His Museum, 1822, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts

The Peale family is considered the first family of American artists. The family’s patriarch Charles Willson Peale (1741-1827) was a prominent 18th-century artist whose subjects included George and Martha Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Hancock, Alexander Hamilton, and scores of others. He is most famous for his formal portraiture though he did paint landscapes and scenes from life.

In 1790, Charles married Rachel Brewer, with whom he had 10 children, many of them named after famous artists. Among them were Raphael Peale (1774 – 1825), Angelica Kauffman Peale Robinson (1775 – 1853), Rembrandt Peale (1778 – 1860), Rubens Peale (1784 – 1865), and Sophonisba Angusciola Peale Sellers (1786 – 1859). Titian Ramsay Peale was born in 1799, the son of Charles Willson and his second wife Elizabeth de Peyster.

Rembrandt Peale was no less of a master than his father, with a rich, luminous style that often captured the essence of his sitters.

And like the family patriarch, Rembrandt painted some of America’s most well-known citizens, but his legacy as a forward-thinking advocate of the arts, sciences, and nature has been what has endeared him to Baltimore. On August 15, 1814, he opened a museum that has endured–in one form or another–until this day.

A mural of what the inside of the Peale Museum looked like in the 19th century
Mural in Baltimore’s Peale Museum showing a detail of a watercolor by Titian Peale of the interior of his father’s museum in Philadelphia.