Arts Everyday Living: Through the Eyes of Grandmother & Grandson–An Intergenerational Bond

Charles Wilson Peale, Mrs. James Smith and Grandson, 1776, oil on canvas, 36 3/8 x 29 1/4 inches, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Levering Smith, Jr. and Museum Purchase, 1980.


Title: Mrs. Smith and Her Grandson, 1776

Artist: Charles Wilson Peale (1741-1827)


Two generations, grandmother and grandson, pose together for us. They may appear a bit shy, perhaps unused to the scrutiny of the artist’s eye and future viewers like ourselves. Mrs. Smith, the elder is a proud grandmother, gentle yet strong, her arm placed lovingly around her red-haired charge. He, in turn, rests quietly against her, his expression sweet and wistful.

Though decades apart in age and experience, they seem comfortable in each other’s company. Good friends as well as kin representing that special bond—sometimes indulgent, rarely stern, always kind—between the youngest and oldest family members.

Charles Wilson Peale, an early American artist, was very much a family man. A number of his children would become artists.  He also named his sons after the great masters of art history—Rembrandt, Rubens, Raphael, and Titian—as if to guarantee their choice of profession.





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