Rubens Peale

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Rubens Peale
Rembrandt Peale - Rubens Peale - Google Art Project.jpg
Portrait of Rubens Peale, by Rembrandt Peale, 1807
Born(1784-05-04)May 4, 1784
DiedJuly 17, 1865(1865-07-17) (aged 81)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
EducationUniversity of Pennsylvania
Spouse(s)Eliza Burd Patterson

Rubens Peale (May 4, 1784 – July 17, 1865) was an American museum administrator and artist. Born in Philadelphia, he was the son of artist-naturalist Charles Willson Peale. Due to his weak eyesight, he did not practice painting seriously until the last decade of his life, when he painted still life.

Early life and education[edit]

He was the fourth son of Charles Willson Peale. Rubens had weak eyes and, unlike most of his siblings, did not set out to be an artist. He traveled with the family in 1802 to the United Kingdom, but was unable to travel on the continent with the resumption of war after the Peace of Amiens.[1] In 1803 he attended classes at the University of Pennsylvania. He became Director of his father's museum in Philadelphia from 1810 to 1821,[2] and then of the Peale Museum in Baltimore, which he ran with his brother, Rembrandt Peale. To promote the museum, he installed gas lighting illumination in the museum.[3][4]

Landscape with quail cock hen and chickens by Rubens Peale, date unknown


Peale opened his own museum in New York on October 26, 1825. By 1840, Peale would change the name to the New York Museum of Natural History and Science. The Panic of 1837 sent his museum into debt. It competed with the American Museum, of P.T. Barnum. Rubens had to sell his entire collection to Barnum in 1843.[5][6] He moved to Pottstown, Pennsylvania. In 1837, he retired to his father-in-law, George Patterson's estate near Schuylkill Haven, Pennsylvania, and lived as a country gentleman, at Woodland Farm.[7] He experimented with mesmerism, and wrote to his brother Rembrandt about it.[8]

In October 1855, he began keeping a journal,[7] and he turned to still life painting, as an extension of his interest in natural history.[9] In 1864, he returned to Philadelphia, and studied landscape painting with Edward Moran.[10] In the last ten years of his life, he produced 130 paintings.

Diary entries on the death of Abraham Lincoln[edit]

Still Life with Watermelon, 1865, Princeton University Art Museum

April 15, 1865:

sad news of the murder of President Lincon [sic], he was shot while attending a performance at Fords' Theater last night in Washington. The assassin entered his private box and shot him in back of his head and then escaped, the assassin's name is ______,

April the 22nd:

The corpse arrived this afternoon from Harrisburg and it was dark, and although the square was brilliantly illuminated with greek lights each side of the great walk Red, Blue & White, which made a most brilliant appearance and lighted up the wholes square & streets yet much of the procession near lost to us. The crowd was so dense in Walnut Street that police could scarcely keep the crowd back.

April the 23rd:

a fine opportunity of viewing the corpse and decorations of the hall, which was totally covered with black cloth except for the statue & portraits of General Washington & wife. I staid [sic] one hour and left Mary gazing on the corpse, she intending to paint a portrait of him ...[11]

Personal life[edit]

On March 6, 1820, he married Eliza Burd Patterson (December 6, 1795 – 1864)[12] and they had children Charles Willson,[verification needed] George Patterson, William, Mary Jane (1826–1902) (who also was a painter),[13][14] James Burd, and Edward Burd.[15] Charles Willson Peale (Feb 15, 1821 – Sept 30, 1871) married Harriet Friel (b. Aug 11, 1830); their son Albert Charles Peale, (1849-1914) became a geologist with the US Geological Survey.[16]


In 1985, the National Gallery of Art paid $4.07 million for Rubens Peale with a Geranium, an 1801 portrait by his brother Rembrandt Peale.[17] This set a record for an American work of art sold at auction.

In 2007, Princeton University Art Museum bought Rubens Peale's Still Life With Watermelon, in honor of John Wilmerding.[18]


  1. ^ Charles Coleman Sellers (1980). Mr. Peale's Museum. Norton. p. 156. ISBN 0-393-05700-3.
  2. ^ Charles Coleman Sellers (1980). Mr. Peale's Museum. W. W. Norton & Company. p. 6. ISBN 978-0-393-05700-3.
  3. ^ Charles Coleman Sellers (1980). Mr. Peale's Museum. Norton. p. 196. ISBN 0-393-05700-3.
  4. ^ "History". Retrieved 2010-03-18.
  5. ^ Jeffrey D. Mason, J. Ellen Gainor (2001). Performing America. University of Michigan Press. p. 43. ISBN 978-0-472-08792-1.
  6. ^ "The Bowery Boys: New York City History: The forgotten museum of Rubens Peale". 2008-05-15. Retrieved 2010-03-18.
  7. ^ a b
  8. ^ Edward John Nygren (April 1970). "Rubens Peale's Experiment with Mesmerism". Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society. American Philosophical Society. 114 (2): 100–108. JSTOR 986028. PMID 11615470.
  9. ^ "''The Peale Family: Creation of an American Legacy, 1770-1870'' Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco". Retrieved 2010-03-18.
  10. ^ "Rubens Peale Works on Sale at Auction & Biography". Retrieved 2017-05-04.
  11. ^ "''U.S. President 1861-1865'', Selections from the Archives of American Art". Retrieved 2010-03-18.
  12. ^ ,Uriah James Jones, William Henry Egle (1899). History of the early settlement of the Juniata Valley. Harrisburg publishing company. pp. 364–365.
  13. ^ "MARY JANE PEALE DEAD.; She Was the Last of Family of Famous Portrait Painters". The New York Times. November 23, 1902.
  14. ^ Wolfgang Born (2005). Still Life Painting in America. Kessinger Publishing. p. 16. ISBN 978-1-4191-1324-6.
  15. ^ George Adolphus Hanson (1876). Old Kent. John P. Des Forges. p. 333.
  16. ^ Thomas Patrick Hughes, Frank Munsell (1893). American ancestry. 8. J. Munsell's sons. p. 133.
  17. ^ "PEALE PAINTING SETS RECORD FOR U.S. ART". Philadelphia Inquirer. December 6, 1985. p. D01.
  18. ^ Smithson, Ruta (2007-05-07). "Wilmerding to leave a legacy of Pop art to Princeton". Princeton University. Retrieved 2010-03-18.

External links[edit]