In her art history blog, It’s About Time, Barbara Wells Sarudy posts several artists together on one page, grouping them under the same heading or category for comparison. For instance, one of my favorite posts was called Squirrels in Paintings of 18C American Women & Children. Imagine if you will, a dozen different images of colonial children showing off their pet squirrels. (BTW, I love the ones by John Singleton Copley.) Who knew not only that people kept squirrels as pets, but there are enough paintings to make comparisons?
Lately, Sarudy has been focusing on 18th (and early 19th) Century portraiture in colonial America. It’s been illuminating. The talent and ability of the artists vary widely. In our selfie-saturated culture, it’s difficult to imagine the absence of the self-image. Because mirrors were a luxury and people rarely saw themselves, I wonder if an approximation of a person’s aspect was considered good enough? Or was it more about status. If you were wealthy enough to have someone paint your portrait was that what was important? How much did adhering to reality matter? I wonder because some of the images are simplistic. (John Hesselius, I’m looking at you!)
In the midst of studying images of women seated mid-air in perspective-defying flying chairs with odd-shaped heads perched on spindly necks, this painting from 1818 by Charles Willson Peale caught my eye. It’s titled Mother Caressing Her Convalescent Daughter. Isn’t it charming? A ruddy-cheeked girl reclines against a woman, her face infused with trust. From their coloration and sharp chins, we know they are related. The mother — pin curls waiving from under her fur-lined ribbon, velvet and embroidery cap — wraps her arm protectively around her daughter’s shoulder. The painting is saturated with love. I hope you like it as much as I do.
Today’s Interesting Tidbit (Just to see if you were paying attention)
For a time Peale studied with two of the most respected portrait artists of his time — John Singleton Copley and John Hesselius.
Today’s List of Links
Per Wikipedia “Charles Willson Peale (April 15, 1741 – February 22, 1827) was an American painter, soldier, scientist, inventor, politician, and naturalist. He is best remembered for his portrait paintings of leading figures of the American Revolution, and for establishing one of the first museums in the United States.”
For a comprehensive overview of Peale and his work go here.
To compare today’s image with other depictions of 18th Century American families, take a look at this It’s About Time post.
Today’s Music Selection: Wear Your Love Like Heaven by Donovan