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James Peale
American, 1749 - 1831

Considered one of the finest miniaturists of the federal era, James Peale also practiced landscape painting a generation before the beginning of the Hudson River School and was one of the founders of the still life tradition in America. Born to a Maryland schoolmaster, James was apprenticed as a saddle maker to his brother Charles Willson Peale before taking up a second apprenticeship with a cabinetmaker-carpenter. After Charles's entry into the arts, James became his brother's pupil and studio assistant, absorbing the artistic lessons Charles brought back from England in 1769.

The Revolutionary War interrupted James's training as a painter when he enlisted as an ensign in a Maryland regiment. He served with distinction in numerous battles before resigning from the army-to George Washington's regret-with the rank of captain in 1779. James made his way to Philadelphia, where he resumed his studies under Charles's direction. The brothers divided the practice of portraiture between them, Charles advertising as a painter of oils, and James as a purveyor of miniatures in watercolor on ivory. Although James's early miniatures are difficult to distinguish from those of his older brother, by the mid-1790s, James had developed a distinctive personal style defined by vivid color, bow-shaped mouths, wispy hair, and a characteristic attentiveness to details.

Over the course of his career, James painted well over 200 miniatures, working until failing eyesight and poor health led him to retire, leaving the field to his daughter, Anna Claypoole Peale. In later life, James devoted himself to still life painting, taking up the mantle in a field left open by the death of another Peale, his nephew Raphaelle, in 1825. In addition to his contributions to numerous artistic genres, James also fathered and encouraged the careers of three of America's earliest professional women artists, Anna Claypoole, Margaretta Angelica, and Sarah Miriam Peale.

Also see The Peale Legacy.

Click on an image below for more information on James Peale's miniatures.

Rembrandt Peale (1778-1860)

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