One of the many portraits created in the years following the Revolution represents America's leading botanist, William Bartram. In 1808 Charles Willson Peale created a portrait of Bartram for the gallery of heroes of the Revolution and persons of accomplishment in Peale's Philadelphia museum. It pays tribute to Bartram's long career, and through the inclusion of a sprig of fragrant jasmine, links Bartram to a portrait of Carl Linnaeus, the famous Swedish founder of the system of binomial nomenclature so admired by eighteenth-century botanists, and used by Peale to classify the specimens displayed in his museum. This portrait, like most of those included in "Franklin & His Friends," is a complex image that reveals far more than the likeness of a kindly old man. It works on many levels to present Bartram as a man of science, linked to the larger Enlightenment republic of letters, and yet it was also intended to serve as an exemplar of national accomplishment for Peale's museum audience.
The desire to assert a connection with the republic of learning, to participate in the project of the Enlightenment, and to create images that emphasized the scientific life were strong among men of science during the years surrounding the American Revolution. The resulting portraits form a great resource for the study of American art history, but they also enrich our knowledge of the many individuals who contributed to the history of early American science.
Benjamin Franklin / Charles Willson Peale / oil on canvas / Historical Society of Pennsylvania
David Rittenhouse / Charles Willson Peale / oil on canvas / National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
David Rittenhouse / Edward Savage after Charles Willson peale / mezzotint / National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
John Jeffries / Caroline Watson after John Russell engraved frontispiece to his Narrative / National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Thomas Jefferson / Cornelius Tiebout / stipple engraving / American Philosophical Society
Simeon DeWitt / Ezra Ames / oil on canvas / Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Gallery, Rutgers University
The Morse Family / Samuel F. B. Morse / watercolor on paper / National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution
William Bartram / Charles Willson Peale / oil on paper on canvas / Independence National Historical Park Collection