Important American Paintings - September 2010
James Peale
Sarah Smith Logan, c. 1808
Oil on canvas, 29 1/4 × 24 1/4 inches
Provenance: By direct descent through the family of the sitter.

RS 6420

Born in Chestertown, Maryland, James Peale commenced his career as an apprentice in his elder brother Charles Willson Pealeís (1741–1827) Annapolis saddlery in 1762. When Charles returned from London in 1769 and began to work as a professional artist, James was his assistant and pupil. During the American Revolution James served in the Continental Army, from which he retired in 1779 with the rank of captain. He settled in Philadelphia and began to specialize in painting miniature portraits. In 1782 James married Mary Claypoole, the sister of the engraver and portraitist James Claypoole, Jr. (c. 1743–1822); three of their daughters became noted artists. Although Charles ceded the field of miniature painting to James by a formal agreement in 1786, evidence suggests that he soon became interested in landscape subjects. As his eyesight gradually weakened during the first decade of the nineteenth century, James began to paint standard-size portraits and innovative still-life subjects. He exhibited the latter at the Pennsylvania Academy between 1824 and 1830. James died in Philadelphia.1 This portrait in the neoclassical style represents Sarah Smith Logan, the daughter of Samuel Logan, a prosperous merchant from Easton, Maryland, who donated land upon which the Talbot County Library was erected. Sarah Logan married William Bennett Clarke, a prominent local lawyer and merchant, on March 24, 1808. This painting dates from the time when James was making the transition from being a miniaturist to a painter of life-size portraits. Although the influence of Charles Willson Peale is still discernible, the fluid handling of paint, rich color, and delicate handling of details are all characteristic of Jamesís individual style.


1. For a recent discussion of James Peale, see Linda Crocker Simmons, "James Peale: Out of the Shadows," in Lillian B. Miller, ed., The Peale Family: Creation of a Legacy, 1770–1870 [exh. cat., National Portrait Gallery] (Washington, D.C., 1996), pp. 202–219.


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