Curator's Choice

The Art of the Peales in the Philadelphia Museum of Art: Adaptations and Innovations

1 Review
The Art of the Peales in the Philadelphia Museum of Art: Adaptations and Innovations

Editor's Choice:

I recently attended the premiere of a documentary about the history of the film industry in Philadelphia. Like so many Philadelphia stories, it began with Charles Willson Peale—in this case, his efforts, in the 1780s, to create “moving pictures,” dynamic paintings with changing scenes and lighting, accompanied by live music. So much of what American art (in the broadest sense of the term) became can be traced back to the activities of this extremely inventive and prolific family. From miniatures to mastodons, they had it all covered. The Philadelphia Museum of Art has the largest and deepest collection of Peale works in a variety of media. This book gathers them together and, what’s more, uses them to tell a story that is both integral to our city and quintessentially American.

—David Updike, Editor, Publishing Department, Philadelphia Museum of Art

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Active from the late 1700s through the early twentieth century, the Peale family was America’s first artistic dynasty. This overview of the art of the Peales presents more than 160 works in a variety of media from the renowned collection of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. With discussions of internationally famous masterworks such as Charles Willson Peale’s Staircase Group and Rembrandt Peale’s pathbreaking still lifes, as well as lesser-known but engaging pictures like Rubens Peale’s English Magpie Eating Cake, Carol Eaton Soltis traces the family’s history and reveals how the Peales’ energy, innovation, and entrepreneurship paved the way for generations of American artists.


Rigorously researched and generously illustrated, The Art of the Peales is an essential and wide-ranging study that considers the family’s substantial output and contextualizes their historical legacy. Examining the different ways that the Peales instructed, influenced, supported, and competed with one another, this book is full of new revelations on this extraordinary family that remained a transformative force in America’s cultural life for more than a century.

  • Hardcover
  • 344 pages
  • 234 color illustrations
  • 9 3/4" x 12”
  • Publisher: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2017
  • ISBN: 978-0-87633-277-1
Customer Reviews

Average Customer Rating: (1 Review) Write a Review

The Art of the Peales Stars Score 5

Reviewer: from Radnor, Pa

Dear potential readers, art collectors and lovers of American art history,
I am NOT the best critic since I am family BUT, this is an imminently readable book that goes beyond it's academic and historic value to the art history field. The PMA collection of this early american art dynasty of prominent painters, inventors and scientists is pretty remarkable.

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