Arts Everyday Living: Celebrating Women’s History–Sarah Miriam Peale, an Early American Artist




March is Women’s History Month and we will be featuring women artists through the centuries. A number of them are “famous,” but others have been overlooked and still being discovered. So enjoy our special online exhibition with fast facts highlights accompanying each image. Generally, the works of art will be presented chronologically.


Sarah Miriam Peale, Mary Leypold Griffith (1838-1841), 1841, oil on canvas, 35 1/2 x 30 3/4 inches, Smithsonian American Art Museum, purchase made possible by the American Art Forum, the Catherine Walden Myer Endowment, the Julia D. Strong Endowment, and the Pauline Edwards Bequest, 2015.

Title: Mary Leypold Griffith, 1841

Artist: Sarah Miriam Peale (1800-1885)

FAST FACTS: Born in 1800 in Philadelphia, belonging to the Peale family, a dynasty of Early American artists–her father James Peale, a specialist in miniatures plus her first teacher; uncle Charles Wilson Peale, a leading artistic figure of the new U.S. nation; as well as a sister Anna Claypoole Peale and cousins (one of  them Rembrandt Peale also was responsible for training her).  First female painter with sibling Anna to become a member of prestigious Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia.

Successful career as a portraitist, her clients often from upper echelon of society such as congressmen and diplomats. Had studios, first in Baltimore, then moved to St. Louis. Spent last years of her life in Philadelphia living with her sisters. Known for painting still lifes too.

The portrait of Mary Leopold Griffith is said to be posthumous, commissioned by her parents after her death. Note how she is cutting a ribbon and is surrounded by educational books such as a primer used for reading instruction.



Sources include the website of the National Museum of Women in the Arts, the Smithsonian American Art website, and the University of Chicago Press Journals website.




The Smithsonian American Art Museum does not endorse or approve use of the above image or any of the material on this website. Nor has the Smithsonian American Art Museum participated in any projects utilizing the said image.

This media is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions), Smithsonian.

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