The issue of likeness: Reinterpreting American portraits from the Revolutionary era (Charles Willson Peale, Ralph Earl)
Master of Arts
American painting from the Revolutionary period, 1760-1790, is commonly evaluated according to the British Academic standard adopted by scholars of earlier colonial painting. This standard argues that a particular or realistic style is characteristic of provincial and less educated regions, encouraging theoretical assumptions about 18th century American portraiture: that it was void of intellectual and theoretical value; that its style resulted from limitations inherent to learning from books and prints; and, finally, that it sought to emulate British fashion. Trained in the Academic style and patronized by many individuals well-versed in British taste and tradition, Charles Willson Peale and Ralph Earl suggest that choice for a particular style resulted from native values and interests, the influence of issues like individualism and whiggism, and an awareness of the socio-political differences separating America and Britain.