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Still Life With Peaches

Janet M. Torpy, MD
JAMA. 2010;303(3):203. doi:10.1001/jama.2009.1853.
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Still life painting garnered little enthusiasm from early 19th-century Americans. Citizens of a relatively new nation, they preferred portraits and genre scenes. Frugality, earnestness, industry: these attributes that drove the formation of the United States did not easily merge with a style of painting that celebrated simple observation. Charles Willson Peale, prolific portraitist of the era, exploited this atmosphere—and his talent—to match the desires of the purchasing public, but his eldest surviving son Raphaelle Peale (1774-1825) could not. The junior Peale, whose art never earned him enough money to pay the bills, is referred to in modern scholarship as the “father of American still life painting.” Raphaelle excelled at portraying in his art the sense of order that his life lacked.

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Raphaelle Peale (1774-1825), Still Life With Peaches, circa 1816, American. Oil on panel. 33.7 × 51.3 cm. Courtesy of the San Diego Museum of Art (http://www.sdmart.org/), San Diego, California; museum purchase through the Earle W. Grant Acquisition Fund, 1981:38.3.

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