Mary Jane Peale: The Forgotten Peale Painter

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D.E. Marsh 2017. Mary Jane Peale: The Forgotten Peale Painter. American Philosophical Society Blog:


Peale children were encouraged to pursue art at a time when professional female artists were rare. Mary Jane Peale, Charles Willson’s granddaughter, is the least known of Peale family artists. The APS is fortunate to have her diaries, letters, and notes in its collections. Despite proposals of marriage, Mary Jane remained single, and led a rich life as an unmarried artist. In the 1860s, she traveled Europe—to Paris, Geneva, and Luxembourg, among other places—to see its museums and painting collections. In the 1870s, she mingled with the nation’s intellectual elite in Washington—the Smithsonian’s Joseph Henry and Spencer Baird, as well as biologist Louis Agassiz and geologist Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden. When she died at age 72, her obituary proclaimed that this “well-known portrait painter” was the “last of family of famous portrait painters.” Today, her work is held at the Pennsylvania Museum of Art, the Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Sheldon Museum of Art, and the Westmoreland Museum of Art.