tv Second Bank Portrait Gallery CSPAN April 22, 2017 10:00am-10:51am EDT
congress are here. it is the best job they have ever had, it is the highest paying job they have ever had, and they don't want to give it up, so getting reelection is more important than the actual problem solving that goes on in washington dc. announcer 1: watch at 9:00 p.m. eastern on "book tv." located between the new museum of the revolution and independence hall in philadelphia, the portrait hall of the second bank of the united states houses more than 150 paintings of notable 18th and 19th century leaders, military officers, explorers, and scientists. up next on american history to these american artifacts, we look at a selection of works by charles wilson peel.
i'm kariehorn: diethorn. i am the chief curator at the independence national park, the national park service in philadelphia. i oversee a large collection of museum artifacts here, almost 4 million of them. we are here at the second bank of the united states, a historic building that is part of the independence national historical park. the second bank of the united states, which was finished in 1824, was literally the fort knox of its day. the building has been restored on the exterior, so when you come to see us you will see how , it looked brand-new. exhibits the fine arts from the early 19th century to tell the story of what it was like to live in 18th century america, the world that those people knew and the worldly -- world that the revolution built. the portrait collection at independence national historical park is a very, very old one. the bulk of our collection, 94
pictures, was painted by charles wilson peel, a philadelphia artist who had a museum here in the city. the museum was so popular in the middle of the 19th century many , of the pictures were purchased by the city of philadelphia to hang them in independence hall, the subject the city chose were signers of the declaration, because the declaration and presentation had been written in independence hall. throughout the 19th century, the pictures hung there, and in the middle of the 20th century, the national park service restored independence hall to how it looked at the time of the revolution when the paintings were not there. so the national park service decided to move the paintings to the second bank of the united states and create a modern exhibit. in a way, you can say the paintings would have never been part. they were created by charles wilson peel for the museum, they were purchased by philadelphia for their museum and independence hall, and then they became responsibility of the national park service here at the second bank of the united states. individually, they are
wonderful, but collectively, they are so awe-inspiring. here at the second bank of the united states, we have so many paintings by the artist charles willson peale, that we wanted to re-create for our visitors a standing room sense of what he painted these portraits for. that is the museum here in philadelphia. here we have a graphic depiction of the museum. this is actually from a painting of charles wilson peel that he did himself in another museum's collection, but the background is so interesting, because here is charles willson peale's museum when it was on the second floor of the independence hall. you can see the exhibit cases with all of the taxidermy prepared animals and birds, and above, you can see the portraits. because charles willson peale could put in stuffed birds and animals, but he couldn't put in stuffed people. although he did think about it. instead he had portraits for stand-in's. and the best part of the depictions are they visitors of charles willson peale's museum.
here's a man talking to avoid -- to a boy. a boy is reading a book. i especially love this woman whose hands are raised in amazement at what she is saying. and actually what she is seeing is behind charles wilson peel, it is a fully preserved skeleton of a mammoth. that is what she saw. a stuffed mammoth. and charles willson peale's museum, it was like museums today, instantly trying to bring in visitors with something new. here you see gas fixtures powered by gas or they were the gas fixtures at philadelphia at a public building in philadelphia. here is charles willson peale himself. the best part of charles willson peale's museum and the portraits and it is charles willson peale wanted to preserve the portraits in the museum as those people really looked. it is kind of all of approach.
the greatest example is this portrait over here, which is not by charles willson peale, but by rembrandt. the person for whom fort sumter in south carolina, the place where the civil war started is , named. and when charles willson peale taught his son rembrandt to paint, he wanted to make the portrait as precise as possible to include all the details of a person's face. because at the time they believe the person's character was reflected on the base. -- face it we don't believe that now. in the 18th century, it had to do with the features. that meant all of the features, there was not picking and choosing. in the case of charles sumter, when we look at the painting and we say, what is wrong with his eyes? they look a little odd. the answer is charles sumter really did have a lazy eye. and charles willson peale's son
rembrandt included that in the portrait, not to make fun of charles sumter, but to be as accurate as possible about how charles sumter really looked so that when visitors to peel museum saw the painting they , would know that was charles sumter. i think that really says something about charles wilson peel, his son rembrandt peel, and their commitment to the style of painting as the day, which is all about detail. our exhibit in the second bank is a specific gallery representative of the peel museum doesn't have the character. we have arranged those portraits like charles willson peale did. they are double and triple stacked in order to accommodate them. at the end of peale's life, there were all most of 300 portraits in his museum. we only have about a third of them here today at independence park, but we wanted people to get the kind of wow factor that the visitors to the original museum got when they sell all of
-- they saw all of these paintings of all of these familiar people. when you look at these portraits, you notice they really all start to look similar until you start to study them one by one, but that similarity isn't necessarily a bad thing. what is is is reflective of what charles willson peale was trying to do with his portraits. he wanted the people to appear as much like their real selves as possible, but he also wanted the portraits to be emblematic of something that was very important to the 18th century, and that was history. in the case of charles willson peale, he painted his museum portraits head and shoulders only, nothing in the background, and oftentimes framed them in an oval, because he wanted his portraits in the museum to look like the coins of ancient roman emperors with the busts of the emperors on them. he wanted to reflect the idea that these were powerful people, and yet they are still of the people. they are not emperors, but they have that kind of elegance, that
kind of power, that kind of real commitment to ruling the nation. and so the museum portraits that charles willson peale have a very distinctive format because he wanted us to look at them like the heroes of the ancient world. there is also a practical reason. it is very quick easy and quick , to paint head and shoulders only. you don't have all the details. charles wilson peel in his autobiography claimed he could paint one of the museum portraits in three hours. we have to take that with a boulder of salt, but he was very productive. and because he hung his brother and his son working with him, they all had like an assembly line of production. that's how they ended up with almost 300 paintings in the museum by itself. today all of the paintings have been preserved and protected. most of them do not have their original frames. we have replicas. the frames were delicate and
they were kind of the first thing to go. these paintings have been through a lot since the 19th century before they came into the modern museum. we wanted to present them as accurately as possible, and even though we don't have the historical frames, we have gotten close with our replicas. this is the first. this is baron von triton, who was a prussian military advisor to george washington during the american revolution, and is launched live in -- von steuben who taught the american army at valley forge how to conduct their military maneuvers and how to be a real army as opposed to a bunch of farmers and merchants who have guns. it is a great painting, because von steuben is wearing all of his medals, and he really looks
like somebody that was going to boss you around. von steuben didn't speak english, so when he was drilling the troops at valley forge he said it in his native tongue, and then waited for someone to translate. i can't imagine how frustrating that must have been for von ste charles wilson peel did the painting because he was so famous. this was one of the draws that first charles willson peale had at his first museum, to see the first prussian general who made an army out of farmers. and behind me, you might talk about this painting. it was timothy matlack. timothy matlack is the person who wrote out the declaration of independence during the month of july 1776 so that everybody else could sign it on august 2, 1776. and timothy matlack in the painting is in his late 80's. and charles willson peale is not much younger, and the two have
been friends for more than 60 years. when you are looking at this painting, you are really looking at this wonderful old man with a beautiful white beard, and it is a real character study. it is the last painting charles wilson peel did for his museum before charles wilson peel died two years later. peale was born in maryland, but he moved to philadelphia on the eve of the revolution in because 1775 he wanted to find clientele for his painterly services. in other words he was a , businessmen, and he was looking for customers. he moved to philadelphia, immediately started painting portraits. he was very active during the american revolution painting portraits of soldiers going off to war. but right now i would like to talk a little bit about this painting peel did of himself in the middle of the 1790's. peel was incredibly productive as an artist. it has been estimated that he painted more than 600 pictures in his lifetime. he actually did seven
self-portraits. this is one of them. and what is really amazing to me about this painting is how peel portrays himself. in other words, he's not trying .o pretty himself up his hair is messy, his close a rumpled. -- clothes are rumpled. what he wants to show is not an elegant person, but a craftsman, an artisan, someone who takes their work seriously. that is why in the portrait, the subject's eyes are really the most prominent aspect of the painting. and peale really looks right out at you, the audience. hypnotize sort of him, -- hypnotizing, i think, his gaze is so intense. the other purpose of doing a self portrait, you can't blame it on the client who is moving around too much or talking, because you yourself the artist are the subject. peel used the opportunity for
this self-portrait to kind of stretch himself technically as an artist. you might notice the rather unusual angle of his torso, and one can attribute that to his turning back and forth to the painting, to a mirror, to the painting. and he captures that motion in the picture. he is also experimenting with light. you'll notice how one half of his face is in shadow, and the other is brightly lit. that is hard to do, technically. the light source for this painting is even outside the picture frame. peel is experimenting with this not because he is going to show this portrait to a lot of people, but because he himself is practicing his technique as an artist. and it makes a really wonderful character study. there is nothing in the background, we are just focusing on the subject, and what we are really focusing on the subject about is his eyes. we will see a lot of other pictures by charles willson peale painted of his contemporaries as we move along,
and there is one of them right here. now, this is a very different picture. this is mary white morris, who was a woman in philadelphia from the colonial period into the early 19th century. this was a private commission. in other words, mary white morris paid charles willson peale to paint this picture of her in the early 1780's. mary white morris is shown in an incredibly extravagant costumes. she's wearing a turban with feathers and jules -- jewels. she has a sash. she looks like someone who can buy the world. that was the whole point of this picture. charles willson peale was hired by mary white morris and her husband to paint this painting and a companion portrait of her husband. merit white morris's husband was robert morris, who is sometimes
referred to as the financier of the american revolution. he was so wealthy, robert morris during the colonial period in , the 1780's, that he could finance of the american revolution with his own private money. and if he hadn't done that, it is highly unlikely that the american revolution could have gotten off on a good start. and mary white morris is ostensibly in this portrait, is portrayed in way that is meant to impress you, that is meant to make you see how wealthy she is, how important her standing is. you might think that that is all that is important about mary white morris, that she had a lot of money and could dress fancy, but in fact what charles wilson peel has done with this portrait is he has included much more information about her than you might think. that information also is no more about her as a real person. i will point out a few of those aspects. these are called attributes in a painting. you will see in the upper left
corner just a very is vaguely the ghost of an outline. the sculpture. it is of the muse of music. you can see he is holding a trumpet. the reason this is in mary white painting -- morris's is because charles willson peale once to inform us that she's not only pretty to look at, she is talented. she appreciates music. he also wants us to know she is not dumb. if you look on this side of the painting, you will see what looks like a landscape behind her with these portrait busts on pedestals. this was not a real place. this was not where mary white morris or robert morris lived or any place in philadelphia. it is imaginary, but it is symbolic. it is what charles willson peale wants you to think about mary white morris. the reason why these are these busts, they are recognizable -- here is george washington, and these other figures are the busts of other political writers
from england and america. what is that kind of thing doing in an 18th-century woman's portrait? what it is doing there is telling us that mary white morris has read all of these authors, understands the political theory of her era, and espouses it. we've got music and we've got intellect. and that is really what he is trying to say, behind this beautiful facade, there is a woman of substance. what we know about mary white morris's biography, she is a credible -- incredible what she achieved. she is a woman -- an aristocratic one, but a woman nonetheless, living in an area controlled by men. and yet, mary white morris becomes her husband's inherited business partner after her husband winds up in prison because he can't pay his debts. in the 18th century you can't just declare bankruptcy. you had to pay up or go to jail.
robert morris couldn't pay up, her husband, so they put him in jail. how are you going to pay your debts if you are in jail, kind of a strange dichotomy. so what happened is mary white morris took over the business, made the money and got her husband out of prison. at the same time, she is caring for their nine children. this is not somebody who sits on a soft cushion all day. this is somebody who gets down to it, works, and really understands business, the arts, and philosophy. so she is really a woman for the new republic. she is the kind of woman that will then teach her children to understand the same things and be the best citizens in the new america. but we are always brought back to the idea that she lives in a world where women are not independently -- do not independently have rights. and there is an aspect of the painting that says that well. if you look at her wrists here and here you can see that she is
, wearing bracelets. the bracelets actually hold little tiny portraits. this one is her husband, and this is her father. very pretty, nice if you can get it. but you know what it always reminds me of, and that is handcuffs. i am sure that is not what -- the handcuff part, what charles willson peale intended, but it is something we can interpret today when we think about the role of women in the 18th century. well let's look no at another painting -- next at another painting by charles willson peale. this is one from his museum. i mentioned earlier charles wilson peel had a museum with portraits of his contemporaries who he regarded as the heroes of the american revolution. here is one right here. this is john paul jones, the naval commander. he is the one who supposedly says in battle "i have not yet , begun to fight." this is a great painting, because i think it really reflects john paul jones'
personality. jones, who was scottish by birth, came to america, and he went to see at age 12. and he was always ambitious, always looking to get a leg up, to improve his station. he gets a military command and then throughout the revolution, he is really in the popular imagination almost as a pirate because he captures ships for the glory of america, and yet he is really reckless and daring. i think the portrait that charles willson peale does does of him, which is done in the early 1780's near the end of the american revolution really shows , off that "i'm not to be messed with, i am kind of a little bit outside the law." and john paul jones' most famous career success was in 1779 when he has the protracted naval battle commanding a ship against british forces, and it is almost a debacle, because the ships are
burned and sinking, the americans are losing. john paul jones marshals his men, and they go on to win the battle and capture the british ship. it is that kind of fame that john paul jones craved, he was really an ambitious person. and of course though not , everybody else is enamored with somebody who is super ambitious. so john paul jones is constantly getting fired and the continental congress didn't get , the commands of the ships he wanted. he ends up taking his baseball bat and glove and leaving after the american revolution, and he signs up to fight with catherine the great's navy in russia. he hopes he is going to make a lot of money. that doesn't work out. finally, at the end of his life he moves to paris and he sort of died in obscurity. but his name lives on beyond his lifetime, and eventually, his body, which was buried in paris
was brought back to the united , states in the early 20th century and he is now buried at , the naval academy in annapolis, maryland. and this picture of john paul jones was done about 10 years before he died. i think is just great. he is looking off to the distance, and i always think he is thinking to himself, what can i conquer next? i think charles willson peale really captured the spirit of this particular subject. he is the only one in charles wilson peel's museum where the subject is wearing a hat. and i think that the whole aspect of his uniform, for example, right here he is wearing a medal, the society of cincinnati. that was formed after the revolution by george washington and his officers, and the whole uniform, the presentation is very important both to the artist and to the subject. but let's talk a little bit more about some of john paul jones's contemporaries who don't get portrayed in such a dramatic
way. here is a good one right here, this is charles thompson. charles thompson is best known as the secretary of the continental congress. and the very first time the declaration of independence was printed, it didn't include all the names of the people who signed the declaration. it only contained the names of the president of the congress at that time, john hancock, and the secretary, charles thompson. thompson, who was irish, was a dedicated public servant. he worked for the continental congress throughout its history. but when the new -- when the revolution was over and the new government was placed in america under what we call the articles of confederation, thompson, who was a little bit of a radical during the american and made some enemies, doesn't get a position in the new government after the american revolution. he is sort of forced out. and he really resented that. he lived here in the philadelphia area, so he was
kind of a hanger on without a position. instead, he devoted all his energies towards the end of his life to writing a translation of the bible. i think it must've been so hard to have been at the center of so many important events during the american revolution and then be sort of cast aside. i think he probably never forgot that. and here in the portrait that charles willson peale does of thompson -- and peel and thompson were friends for a very, very long time, and thompson kind of looks benign, but he also looks a little -- i think. and even while this picture is done while thompson is still in the political inner circle, perhaps there is a little bit of a foreshadowing to his ultimate kind of outsiderness. i think peale enjoyed people who were outsiders. because peel himself was one, and his friend charles thompson, they were friends for decades,
was definitely someone who charles wilson peel, who was also multitalented with interests in many pursuits, i think they kind of related to one another really closely. this is a great painting of the artist's really good friends. but also someone who was on the center stage during the american revolution. and someone else who was on center stage is this portrait right here that charles willson peale did of the marquis lafayette. i always think he did play a teenager dressed up in his father's uniform. lafayette was so young when he came to america in 1777 offering his services to george washington. lafayette of course is french and had gone to military school there. and he heard about the american revolution, he immediately embraced the ideals of the revolution and said i must , serve. he paid his own way to come to america and offered his services to george washington, didn't speak any english. and he winds up at valley forge.
that is really where he sort of learns english from the other officers. washington and lafayette had a very mutually and affectionate friendship. lafayette was young enough to be washington's son. and so throughout the american revolution, lafayette is very close to washington, at his side, on his command that. but he is not just hanger on, he was a very successful military strategists, and his skills are very important at the battle of yorktown, the culminating battle in the american revolution. lafayette led a large number of forces and was very able as a military commander. after the american revolution, lafayette goes back to paris. he survives the french revolution, because even though he is an aristocrat, he is not someone that the french revolutionary forces think has to go to the guillotine and be killed. he survives, and he lives a long life. in his very late years in 1824, he decides to go back to the
united states and visit all of his old buddies from the american revolutionary era. it is the eve of the 50th anniversary of the american revolution. lafayette comes to america, a very old man, but nevertheless, someone that americans remember as the youth who served george washington and who helped to win the revolution. and i think peale's portrait done at the time of the american revolution really captures lafayette as this aspiring and dedicated person who is dreaming of a world in which the ideals of the american revolution, the ideals of liberty, and fraternity and equality that would become the slogan of the french revolution, are getting their start 10 years earlier in the united states. well speaking of george washington, i thought we might take a look at a portrait of his wife, martha washington.
and here she is. martha is painted when she was first lady of the united states in the mid- 1790's. i think she looks a very formidable here. maybe it is that hat, which is not to be messed with. i love the detail in this picture that peale did of her. you can see her little, tiny gold earrings. and she is so stately and so asud, and martha washington the first lady i think had an even tougher job than her husband, george washington the first president, because remember at this time nobody knew what a first lady was, nobody knew what a president was. so martha kind of had to make it up on her own, and what was really important to martha washington throughout her husband's career, she had been a phrase -- at his side. she had been at his side on the battlefield, taking care of him, at their home taking care of the estate, she was intimately involved of her husband's career, kind of like mary morris
we were talking about earlier, but nevertheless, she is not the commander. she is not the president, however, her contributions to her husband's job were very , very significant. and in the case of her duties as first lady, what martha washington was really good at was creating this sense of stately elegance that was the esteem for the president and the sort of awe that people help the -- held the president in. he created this system she called salons where twice a week people would go to the president's house for a party. and the idea was that everyone would, and pay their respects to the president but also do some business on the side. in a way she's using her social skills to promote her husband political career. martha washington and george washington married -- it was her second marriage. and all the money was hers. when he married her, he made a
really good catch as they say. her first husband had died, and she, martha was accustomed to , considerable comfort and wealth in virginia where she lived with her first husband. so she kind of transfers that skill that she has already amassed as the wife of a healthy plantation owner to george washington who is still trying to find his way economically when he becomes commander of the american revolution. so we look at somebody like martha washington and see the frillyness of her outfit, that balanced well with the piercing gaze she gives us. again, this is somebody not to be messed with. she was a short in stature, but i think she was mighty in personality. and charles willson peale's portrait of her for his museum is a wonderful study in determination. just look at that chin.
she is not somebody who is going to acquiesce to anyone, even her husband, president george washington. we had talked about the marquis lafayette as a young man his , portrait done during the american revolution. here he is again in 1825 when he comes to visit america on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the american revolution. this painting is done by thomas sully, a philadelphia artist, and lafayette is sort of posing for us in a grand outfit. his top hat and his cave. -- cape. even though he was quite elderly, in his late 70's at this time, people remarked that he had this beautiful head of hair for such an old man. well, it was a massive wig, and some people were a little put off by what they saw as lafayette's vanity, an old man trying to look young again. but he was a handsome man. i don't think we can take that away from him. anyway, he is posing for thomas
goalie in independence hall. but as the background. what is represented is all of the people who have come to honor him in 1824, 1825 when he is visiting the united states, you can see the windows are full of people and even people standing on the roof. i think we might shift gears a little bit. we are moving a little bit past the american revolution to the period of the 1790's when philadelphia was the capital of the united states. and this portrait is a great place to stop and think about philadelphia as a center for the arts and for science during the 18th century. william bartram, who was a philadelphian by birth, was a naturalist. you can see that peale has depicted in william bartram's portrait of lower specimen here which is actually a type of jasmine. william bartram was a second generation nationalist, his father john bartram had been the
royal naturalist for george ii during the colonial period. his father takes him as the young boy on expeditions, and then as an adult, william bartram takes over and becomes a naturalist himself. and william bartram was most famous for his travels in the southern part of america, georgia, florida etc. where he , discovered new species of plants and would record all of these in beautiful watercolor drawings. and charles willson peale, the artist who painted this portrait, had a real affinity for bartram. since peale himself was also a naturalist, and i think this book a lot -- they spoke a lot about plant specimens and teaching the rest of america about the real bounty and wonders of america's natural world. and this painting when william bartram was rather old is a really nice character study. he is calmly sitting there. he has a wonderful bald spot on
the top of his head and a really prominent vein on his temple. charles willson peale has really looked at the subject to depict him in detail with a lot of care. william bartram was charles willson peale's friend, but i think he was also his colleague as a fellow naturalist. and that portrait really reflects that professional association. next to william bartram is william clark. and i always have enjoyed this picture, because liam clarke was a vivid redhead. and charles willson peale did a really nice job with william clark's red hair. william clark is half of the famous team of lewis and clark, the explorers, who traveled during president jefferson early in the 19th century to surveillance the territory we now know as almost a third of the united states, the territory america gained through the louisiana purchase. william clark was a soldier by
training, and he was brought to the expedition as the military backbone of the lewis and clark expedition. and when he and meriwether lewis get back after the expedition is over in charles willson peale 1806, exhibits many of the specimens that the lewis and clark expedition brought back. by specimens, they were plants, animals, but also native american artifacts, a very important opportunity for people who went to the philadelphia museum, charles willson peale museum to see indian artifacts , for the first time. so the portrait of william clark, he looks very much the gentleman with his high collar cravat, thisut -- portion of his shirt, but you can see how weathered his face is. his forehead is almost white, because he is always wearing a hat to protect it in the sun. and charles willson peale, who
did not travel extensively, certainly not as extensively as lewis and clark still enjoyed , the idea of exploration and talking to people like lewis and clark and other explorers about their adventures. i think that must have been the subject matter when william clark's portrait was being painted. well, we can't look at william clark's portrait without looking at meriwether lewis' portrait as well. you might recall when we were looking at clark's portrait, it was very warm, he had a ready face, and meriwether lewis's portrait is quite cool. they are not painted at exactly at the same time by charles willson peale but close. of meriwethery lewis doesn't seem to have the same kind of life to it as the studies of william clark did. was also alewis military commander and had been on jefferson's staff when he was president. meriwether lewis was sort of a
loner guy. he was hard to know. he met his end in rather untimely way. there has been a lot of discussion among scholars about whether he might have committed suicide. it is not known for sure, but his life was cut short by violence. and it seems that throughout that short life, meriwether lewis was a rather moody person, and i almost think that charles willson peale felt obligated to ' portraitwether lewis because he had done william clark, and yet maybe he didn't feel the same affinity or -- for meriwether lewis that he did his partner. even though meriwether lewis was the one in the lewis and clark expedition who made all of the maps. i think that is important to keep in mind, that that expedition was not just to cover territory. it was to document the west. so meriwether lewis and william clark spent years now during and
-- years gathering information and bring it back to the east coast to share with the rest of america. and how important not just the land acquisition, the louisiana purchase, was, but the wealth of information it provided the continent. and the lewis and clark expedition inspired many other expeditions which led to crossing the rocky mountains and reaching the pacific ocean. so too bad meriwether lewis did not get to see that. this is an interesting painting too, because charles willson peale was experimenting with techniques. unlike most of his other pictures, which are painted oil on canvas, this one of meriwether lewis is painted on paper that has been mounted on a board. paper is very thin, and you can almost see the cracks in the board. well, we can't talk about the american revolution and not talk about the powerful intellect of john adams.
and here is the portrait of john adams that charles willson peale painted in the mid-1790's. and i think from this portrait it is really easy to see how john adams got his nickname when he was vice president of the united states. his nickname was "his rotundity." you see his chubby cheeks and his double chin. that sort of benign exterior, , hid was rather short behind it the most powerful mind. and john adams' eloquent is unparalleled. he didn't write the declaration of independence, didn't write the constitution, he wasn't even at the signing of the constitution, because he was a for an ambassador at the time but nevertheless his power with , words and his commitment to the philosophy of the american revolution was unparalleled. when this portrait was done by -- done on him, he was vice president. and i think that charles willson peale really wanted to see the
man behind the intellect. this picture makes adams look i think kind of like your neighbor. he is not wearing the wig. he is balding on the top. he has a ruddy cheeks and a 5:00 shadow. i think charles willson peale in his museum portraits was really striving to make the portraits accessible to his visitors of his museum. he wanted visitors to recognize the portrait subjects, not to see them as people up on pedestals, not to see them as extraordinary in the sense of never having any failings, but rather real people who overcame what might have been their failings to accomplish an incredible feat. and in adam's case, there is nothing truer than that. adams first comes to fame before the american revolution starts because he defends the british soldiers accused of murdering american citizens at the boston massacre. a very unpopular position, but i think adams really relished
things that were unpopular, because he felt he could make his mark. and ambition was john adams' middle name. but he was always trying to temper it. i think john adams was a very ethical person, moral person, and despite his own personal need for power and recognition, he kept it in check, because he knew that is what the republic needed. so i think adams is one of those founders who really sacrificed his own advancement. yes he becomes president, of , course, but he could have been -- i think in his own mind, much more than that. and yet, he feels he needs to temper his own enthusiasm, but -- enthusiasm, because after all it is the common good, not the personal good to that is important. so when we look at the portrait of adams as vice president, i think that is what we see. i think we see someone who is purposely downplaying how smart he is, how ambitious he is, in
favor of what is needed by the new nation. well let's take a look at , somebody who didn't mind appearing to be grand, not at all. this is the first french ambassador to the united states. this is conrad alexander gerard, who was appointed as part of the 1778 alliance between america and france. without that alliance which came with money and soldiers, america could never have finished out the american revolution. the french were responsible for helping the united states win the war against great britain. and gerard is the first ambassador from france to america, was welcomed with open arms by americans. and this portrait was painted by charles willson peale as a commission to the supreme executive council, which was the governing body for the state of pennsylvania.
they wanted to hang this painting in independence hall, which was called the pennsylvania state house, which was where the government was located. this painting is in the grand manner style. this person is clearly aristocratic from his clothes and the setting in which he stands. he is sort of pose there with his one leg turned like a ballet pose, hand on his hip. you can see he is wearing an ornamental sword on his left hip and he is cleaning his hands on some books. so what we have got going on here is somebody in a fancy suit who is clearly really smart and clearly really powerful, but it isn't just about that. the painting really was meant to celebrate the alliance between france and america. and if you look in the upper right corner of the canvas, you will see a rather ghostly depiction. it is meant to be a sculpture. and the sculpture is an allegory
france -- for france, which is the figure on the right having , her arm around america. it is a partnership that the portrait is really about. it is not about alexander gerard's well for his aristocratic bearings, beautiful clothes or find wake, -- fine wig, it's about the partnership with america. if you look behind his right elbow, you get an even stronger reminder that this isn't about wealth. this portrait isn't about wealth and privilege. it is about the new nation, because the building behind his right elbow is independence hall. and so, we are reminded that yes, you need money and expertise. you need for and support to win something like -- foreign support to win something like a revolution, but it all comes back to independence hall where the declaration was written. i thought we would finish up by taking a look at a painting that is neither grand or political,
famous, or infamous. and that is this tortured here -- portrait here. of this little boy. yes, it is a little boy, even though he is wearing what looks like a dress. in the 18th century, children boys or girls wore what looks like dresses until the boys were about seven. and the reason for that is women wear dresses and young children wear dresses, because neither women nor young children have any status in society. and so this portrait of samuel buckley morris, who was a philadelphian, makes him look like a little girl, but it actually is a little boy, and part of the reason you can tell that is because he is holding a puppy, which is a masculine prop. if you were a little girl, he would probably be holding a bird. and then behind him is the farm, you can see it here in the background, and that refers to his family's estate. samuel buckley morris, he didn't
do anything famous. his grandfather fought in the american revolution. he was a staff member of george washington. samuel buckley morris was a member of the society of quakers, the friends, and he lived a comfortable life in the early 19th century living in a country estate. but pictures of children i think are always so, still remind us of what the whole dynamic of society is about. so if we think about the american revolution and people who fought it, the people who then build the nation using the constitution, what were they doing it for? they were doing it for children like samuel buckley morris. and not only is this a portrait of a young boy, but it was also painted by a young boy. this picture was done by charles willson peale's son, rembrandt peale, when rembrandt peale was a teenager. if you have a name like rembrandt peale, you better grow
up to be an artist. charles willson peale named all of his sons after renaissance artists. rembrandt peale was the best known, he was the most prolific. he did this wonderful painting of samuel buckley morris in he painted ae year portrait of george washington. when you think about moving from the president to a little boy and back again, it is a really great way to understand the world of an artist, the career of an artist. you paint where the clients take you. i think this portrayal of the wonderful little boy with all of the hope and promise of youth is a great way for an artist to exercise their talents. the care that he took with the locket the little boy is wearing. the locket survived. it was actually a wedding gift from the parents. that contains the locks of his parents' hair. it's not just about a little boy, it is also about his
parents and his family before him represented by the estate. again the artist is taking an , abstract concept and making it real, making it visual for us. adding elements to a painting that allows us to read more into it than the surface information we see, and samuel buckley morris is one of those characters we don't read about in history books. he didn't sign the declaration of independence, but he is one of the people that made the new nation just as much as george washington or john adams. and i think that is really the best part about coming to see the portraits here at independence park. you will see lots of different kinds of people, not all famous, but all of them are important. this weekend, "book tv" is live on the los angeles times is double of books. the two day coverage starts at
1:30 p.m. eastern with a conversation about biographies with several authors. at 3:00 p.m., look at the republican party with hugh hewitt, field, and grant. and the author of the mother of all questions, further reports from the feminist revolutions. the live coverage continues sunday at 1:30 p.m. eastern. it is the discussion on the environment. at 4:00 p.m., gary young talks about his book another day in the death of america, a chronicle of 10 short lives. and david borowitz on his book big agenda, president trump's plan to save america. watch the los angeles times festival of books live today at 1:30 p.m. eastern and sunday at 1:30 p.m. eastern on c-span 2's "book tv."
>> next on american history tv, we hear a panel of historians on the relationship between alexander hamilton and george washington. they will talk about thomas jefferson's opposition to hamilton's federalist party platform and how hamilton's immigrant experience affected his political views. they also explain how hamilton may have helped shift washington's opinion on slavery. the new york historical society hosted this hour-long event. >> tonight's program is a lecture in american history. we thank carl for his wonderful support, and i would also like to recognize a few other people in the auditorium this evening. the heart of our public programs, as i think you all know, is the bernard and irene schwartz distinguished speaker series. and mr. swartz has
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