'Blackberries' (1813) by Raphaelle Peale; De Young Museum, San Francisco
I'm not really fond of still life paintings in general but now and then you see a painting that is so fine in detail and beautiful in colour that it is just difficult to ignore. The painter of this lovely still life scene with blackberries was Raphaelle Peale, born on the 17th of February, 1774, and considered to be the first professional still life painter in the United States and still one of its finest. Most of his paintings are small in scale and depict objects arranged on a table. He was taught painting by his father Charles Willson Peale, a portrait painter, who had named his children after great artists. At first Raphaelle dedicated himself to portrait painting but due to health problems (caused by alcoholism and gout) he turned to still life painting. Many of these still lifes were painted under extreme conditions of chronic illness. His father constantly urged Raphaelle to take up portrait painting since it was more lucrative and more prestigious. But Raphaelle stayed with still lifes and it is for these paintings that he is best known. I'm delighted to make his acquaintance today.