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Rembrandt Peale carte-de-visite – AA/PG Library

Rembrandt peale sm recto: Rembrandt Peale (born Bucks County, PA, 1778; died Philadelphia, PA,1860)

verso: Carte-de-visite photographer: H. G. DeBurlo, Philadelphia, PA

Rembrandt Peale was born into a family of artists during the early years of the American Revolutionary War. His father, Charles Willson Peale was one of the few colonial artists who had studied abroad and had established a reputation as one of the most skilled artists in America. Many of Charles's children were trained to be artists and Rembrandt also started training at an early age. By the age of sixteen he began his career as a professional portraitist, and by age seventeen his father arranged for President George Washington to sit for a portrait. The subject of Washington continued to be of interest to Rembrandt for the rest of his life. 

His father sent him to study both in London and Paris and when he returned to the United States he pursued history painting in addition to portraiture. However, he found little success in Philadelphia.  In 1814 he moved to Balitmore, Maryland where he followed in his father's footsteps and established a museum of arts and sciences. The museum proved to be a financial drain, so he sold the museum to his brother Rubens and traveled to Boston and New York where he subsequently became a founding member of the National Academy of Design. After trips to Europe, in 1837 he returned to Philadelphia where he lived out his years teaching, writing, and giving lectures on his Washington portraits. He died in 1860 after a career establishing him as an important mid-19th century portraitist.

The Peale Family Papers archive spanning three generations of the family is a project of the National Portrait Gallery. His self-portrait is also held in the Portrait Gallery collection. Examples of his work are also found in the American Art Museum: from a portrait of his sister Rosalba (also an artist) to an example of his historical painting. Many books on Peale can also be found in the Smithsonian Libraries.

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