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Peale, Raphaelle

Category: Artist and sculptor

Raphaelle 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 (almost 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.

His first professional exhibition was in 1795 at the age of 21. 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, but also by the paints he used. In August 1809 he was hospitalized with delirium, and for the rest of his life he suffered debilitating attacks almost yearly.

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.

There is a tendency to regard artists who do realistic still life paintings as somehow less talented than those who paint landscapes or impressionistic or abstract art.  But this would be wrong.  What makes the creative world so special is that there is a place for everyone, every style and every genre, as long as it comes from the heart and not the wallet.  Peale's paintings are an extraordinary example of pure or enhanced perception, but before any transfiguration has taken place.  His is a sort of super realism, he was able to capture the essence of inanimate objects in super fine detail. 

Wikipaintings currently ignores him, presumably because they cannot say his paintings now command millions.  But the subtlety of his colours and the beautiful compositions he chooses, show him to have been an exceptional artist.

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