American Icons: The Peale Family and George Washington
Charles Willson Peale was one of America’s leading artists during the American Revolution and the early years of our nation. He was the patriarch of an extended family of artists including Raphaelle, James, Rembrandt, Rubens, Franklin, Sarah Miriam and Titian Ramsay Peale, who produced portraits, still life and landscape paintings. As a resident of Philadelphia, Charles became acquainted with many of America’s revolutionary-era heroes, including Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and George Washington, whose portraits he painted.
Long before his death and even before he served as president, the country loved George Washington. As Commander-in-Chief, he was escorted to the battlefields by parades of cheering supporters. After Independence, the American people needed a symbol that would unite their varying and disjointed regions and stand for something that made everyone proud. They embraced Washington as the man sent to them to do just that. The public’s civic worship of Washington led to a nearly religious worship of him after his death. Over the next two centuries, this hero worship of the Father of His Country would take on many forms, including his depiction on various fine and decorative art objects.