Raphaelle Peale

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About Raphaelle Peale

Raphaelle Peale February 17, 1774 – March 4, 1825 is considered the first professional American painter of still-life.


Peale was born in Annapolis, Maryland, the fifth child, though eldest surviving, of the painter Charles Willson Peale and his first wife Rachel Brewer. He grew up in Philadelphia, and spent his life there in a home at the corner of 3rd and Lombard. Like his siblings (all of whom were named after famous artists or scientists), Raphaelle was trained by his father as an artist. Early in his career, the pair collaborated on portraits. On some commissions, Raphaelle painted miniatures while his brother, Rembrandt, painted full-size portraits.

In 1793, he made a trip to South America in order to collect specimens for the Peale Museum founded by his father. He exhibited five portraits and eight other paintings, probably still-lifes, at the Columbianum, Philadelphia in 1794. His first professional exhibition was in 1795 at the age of 21. In 1797, with his brother Rembrandt, he traveled to Charleston, South Carolina, where they attempted to establish another museum. The plan fell through, however, and Raphaelle returned to painting miniatures.

He married Martha (Patty) McGlathery at the age of twenty, and with her had eight children. For about two years beginning in 1803, Peale toured Virginia with the "physiognotrace", a profile making machine, with which he was briefly successful. By 1806 he had begun to suffer the symptoms of arsenic and mercury poisoning brought on by his work as a taxidermist in his father's museum. In August 1809 he was hospitalized with delirium, and for the rest of his life he suffered debilitating attacks almost yearly—which his father ascribed to "gout of the stomach" caused by consumption of pickles and excessive drinking. From 1810, Peale concentrated on still-life painting almost exclusively, becoming America's first professional still-life painter, and he exhibited frequently at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and elsewhere, especially from 1814–18. By 1813, he was unable to walk without crutches. After the downturn in his health, in an era when most artists considered still life a subject worthy only of amateurs, he devoted himself almost exclusively to still life painting. It is for these works he is best known. His work was on frequent exhibit at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts between 1814 and 1818. After reportedly indulging in a night of heavy drinking, his health destroyed, he died on March 4, 1825 at age 51 at his home in Philadelphia.


Alfred Frankenstein has called Raphaelle Peale "the first really distinguished still-life specialist to emerge in this country, and he is one of the four major still-life painters of the nineteenth century in the United States." His style may have been influenced by Spanish still life paintings he saw on his trip to Mexico and by the two works by Juan Sanchez Cotan, exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy in 1816. Most of Peale's paintings are small in scale, and depict a few objects—usually foodstuffs—arranged on a tabletop before a darkened background. A notable exception is his trompe l'oeil, Venus Rising from the Sea—A Deception (also entitled After the Bath; 1822).


Parents: Charles Willson Peale 1741-1827 and Rachel Brewer 1744-1790

Wife Martha McGlathery

Children: 8

Major Works:

  1. Blackberries, circa 1813
  2. Melons and Morning Glories, 1813
  3. A Dessert (Still Life with Lemons and Oranges), 1814
  4. Still Life with Orange and Book, 1815
  5. Fruit, Pitcher, and Pretzel, unknown
  6. Bowl of Peaches, 1816
  7. Still Life with Cake, 1818 (27.3 x 38.7 cm)
  8. Still Life with Fruit, Cakes and Wine, 1821
  9. Still Life with Cake, 1822
  10. Still Life with Peaches, 1822
  11. Lemons and Sugar, unknown


view all 11

Raphaelle Peale's Timeline

February 17, 1774
November 1798
Age 24
August 6, 1799
Age 25
Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, United States
May 15, 1801
Age 27
Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, United States
August 4, 1802
Age 28
Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, United States
December 8, 1805
Age 31
Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, United States
April 27, 1807
Age 33
Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, United States
September 15, 1808
Age 34
Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, United States
October 15, 1810
Age 36
Philadelphia, Philadelphia County, Pennsylvania, United States
March 4, 1825
Age 51