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Charles Willson Peale Self-Portrait

Charles Willson Peale Self-Portrait
Charles Willson Peale, 15 Apr 1741 - 22 Feb 1827
Charles Willson Peale, 15 Apr 1741 - 22 Feb 1827
c. 1791
Oil on canvas
Frame: 84.8 x 72.1 x 7.3cm (33 3/8 x 28 3/8 x 2 7/8")
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; frame conserved with funds from the Smithsonian Women's Committee
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Object number
Exhibition Label
Born Queen Anne’s County, Maryland
Charles Willson Peale is best remembered as an artist, but he was also the proprietor of the first important museum in America, the Philadelphia Museum of art and natural history. In his mid-forties, after painting hundreds of portraits of the powerful and elite, Peale began a lifelong undertaking: the creation of a new museum designed for a republic. While science museums in Europe placed their specimens in drawers, pinned flat to white cloth, Peale’s museum, designed to involve large numbers of Americans in an educational experience, presented them to visitors in lifelike situations, labeled with their scientific names and ordered in the Linnaean classification. Anyone who could pay the twenty-five-cent admission fee could enter, unlike European institutions, which required special application. Peale also directed the first scientific expedition in America, which exhumed and assembled a mastodon skeleton, helping scientists prove the existence of prehistoric animals.
Three years after completing this self-portrait, Peale gave up portrait painting as his profession to focus on his museum.
A. Kenny C. Palmer, New York; purchased June 15, 1937 by Andrew Varick Stout, New York; his daughter Holly Callery, Charlotte, Vt.; (Lapham and Dibble Gallery, Inc., Shoreham, Vt.); purchased 1989 NPG
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
See more items in
National Portrait Gallery Collection
Out of Many: Portraits from 1600 to 1900
On View
NPG, East Gallery 150a