William Smith and His Grandson (Primary Title)

Charles Willson Peale, American, 1741 - 1827 (Artist)

oil on canvas
United States
Unframed: 51 1/4 × 40 3/8 in. (130.18 × 102.55 cm)
Framed: 56 1/4 × 45 in. (142.88 × 114.3 cm)

This portrait of the Baltimore merchant and statesman William Smith is part political propaganda. The father-in-law of Revolutionary War general Otho Holland Williams, Smith is pictured at his country estate, Eutaw, named for the Battle of Eutaw Springs where Williams defeated the British. The classical facade at right is imaginary, affiliating the sitter with republican ideals supportive of his congressional bid. The books along with a pruning hook and peach branch suggest the intellectual independence and economic self-sufficiency advocated by Thomas Jefferson for republican leadership. The inclusion of Smith’s grandson, Robert Smith Williams, implies that such virtuous principles will be part of Smith’s legacy.

The Maryland-born Peale was the first American artist to train with Benjamin West in London. West’s influence is apparent in Peale’s neoclassical style, which featured simple compositions, precise drawing, and direct lighting.

Signed and dated, lower right: "C. W. Peale / paint'd / 1788"
Robert G. Cabell III and Maude Morgan Cabell Foundation and the Arthur and Margaret Glasgow Fund
The Peale Family: Creation of a Legacy, 1770-1870, Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, Penn., October 26, 1996 – January 5, 1997; Fine Arts Museum of San Francisco, San Francisco, CA, February – March 1997; Corcoran Gallery, Washington, D.C., April 25 – July 6, 1997

The First Federal Congress, 1789-1791, The National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C., March 2 – July 23, 1989

American Masterpieces from American Museums, The Mint Museum, Charlotte, NC, October 15, 1985 – January 15, 1986

Painting in the South, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Va., September 14 – November 27, 1983; Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham Alabama, January 1 – March 4, 1984; National Academy of Design, New York, NY, April 1 – May 27, 1984; Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson, MS, June 24 – August 26, 1984; J.B. Speed Art Museum, Louisville, KY, September 16 – November 11, 1984; New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, LA, December 9, 1984 – February 3, 1985

Charles Wilson Peale and His World, The National Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C., September 20, 1982 – February 28, 1983

Five Years of Collecting, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Richmond, Va., March 25 – May 4, 1980

Maryland Heritage, Bicentennial Exhibition, The Peale Museum, Baltimore, MD, April 20 – June 20, 1976

250 Years of Painting in Maryland, Baltimore Museum of Art, 1945.
Image released via Creative Commons CC-BY-NC

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