Art: The First Family

Charles Willson Peale, for all his fame as a portrait painter, was a practical soul. He started his adult life in the 1760s as a saddle maker and clock mender, switched to portraiture only after he discovered that he could earn as much as £10 per painting, which was much "better than with my other trades." When he went to London to perfect his technique with Benjamin West, he was irritated by the highflown esthetic palaver that he heard. "It is generally an adopted opinion," he noted disdainfully, "that genius for the fine arts...

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