Because Peale served under General Washington and befriended him during the Revolutionary War, he was an ideal candidate to compose this painting that commemorates one of Washington's most important early victories. Even the horse at the right appears impressed with Washington, upon whom he gazes with pride. Peale's painting was instantly popular, and the artist produced several versions of it amid a rally of enthusiasm for the American cause. Whereas some were commissioned by American colonists, others were ordered by Washington's admirers in France, Spain, Holland, Cuba, and even England.
One of the most remarkable figures in early American history, Peale was interested in natural history and organized the first scientific expedition in the United States. Later, Peale opened one of the first financially successful museums in America, displaying stuffed animal specimens, fossils, shells, and a large selection of his portrait paintings.
Cleveland, The Cleveland Museum of Art, The Twentieth Anniversary Exhibition of The Cleveland Museum of Art; The Official Art Exhibit of the Great Lakes Exposition (26 June-4 October 1936), cat. no. 38.
Cleveland, The Cleveland Museum of Art, Art: The International Language (2 October-4 November 1956)
Greensburg, PA, The Westmoreland County Museum of Art, Two Hundred and Fifty Years of Art in Pennsylvania (1959), cat. no. 87, illus. plate 8.
Detroit, The Detroit Institute of Arts, The Peale Family: Three Generations of American Artists (18 January-5 March 1967); traveled to Utica, NY, Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute (19 March-30 April 1967), cat. no. 52, illus. p. 13, listed p. 66-67.
Buffalo, Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Heritage and Horizon: American Painting, 1776-1976 (6 March-11 April 1976); traveled to Detroit, The Detroit Institute of Arts (5 May-13 June 1976); Toledo, The Toledo Museum of Art (4 July-15 August 1976); Cleveland, The Cleveland Museum of Art (8 September-10 October 1976), illus. cat. no. 1.
Cleveland, The Cleveland Museum of Art, Object Lessons: Cleveland Creates an Art Museum (6 June-8 September 1991)
|Probably until 1847||Colonel Frisby Tilghman [1773-1847], Talbot County, Maryland, by descent to his son-in-law, Thomas Jefferson McKaig1|
|Probably 1847-probably 1882||General Thomas Jefferson McKaig [1804-1882], Cumberland, Maryland, by descent to his son, Dr. Frisby Tilghman McKaig|
|Probably 1882-1915||Dr. Frisby Tilghman McKaig [1859-1921], Andrews, North Carolina, consigned to Jonce I. McGurk through Macbeth Gallery|
|1915-1917||(Jonce I. McGurk through Macbeth Gallery, New York, NY, sold to the Cleveland Museum of Art)2|
|1917-||The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio|
1The information provided by Macbeth Gallery mentions Tilghman’s “home in Rockland [MD] where the portrait hung for many years, never going out of the family until its recent sale to Macbeth Gallery.” The painting’s ownership prior to Tilghman is uncertain. In his Portraits and Miniatures by Charles Willson Peale (1952), Charles Coleman Sellers suggests that because the painting had been owned by Frisby Tilghman, it was probably painted for his father, Judge James Tilghman (1743-1809), who was well acquainted with the artist. This is purely conjecture, however, as there is no documentation confirming James Tilghman’s ownership of the painting.
2McKaig authorized McGurk to sell the painting on his behalf upon agreement of a price.
Arie McKaig Freeman, letter, Aug. 10, 1926, in CMA curatorial file.
Photographs of Artwork and Records of Paintings Sold, Box 156, Macbeth Gallery records, 1838-1968, bulk, 1892-1953, Archives of American Art, Washington, DC.
Robert Macbeth, letter to Frederic Whiting, Dec. 21, 1917, in CMA curatorial file.
Scharf, J. Thomas. History of Western Maryland: Being a History of Frederick, Montgomery, Carroll, Washington, Allegany, and Garrett Counties from the Earliest Period to the Present Day ; Including Biographical Sketches of Their Representative Men. Philadelphia: L.H. Everts, 1882.
Stock Disposition Cards, Sold Paintings, Macbeth Gallery records, 1838-1968, bulk, 1892-1953, Archives of American Art, Washington, DC.