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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Named after the prolific Dutch painter, Rembrandt Harmenszoon Van Rijn, Rembrandt Peale grew up to become one of America's most respected artists.

Such was his skill that he had the distinct honour of painting the portraits of not only two sitting Presidents, i.e. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, but also a number of important political and non-political figure-heads at the time.

His work has garnered significant praise over the years for both its skill and beauty as well as for serving as a brilliant documentation of American history. Rembrandt was able to paint two famous Thomas Jefferson portraits.

The first portrait which was painted in 1800 while he was serving as vice president to John Adams.

The second portrait which was painted in 1805 while he was serving as president.

Rembrandt was a student of Neoclassicism; a form of Art that significantly influenced him in many ways. Neoclassicism refers to the various progressions in literature, music, art and theatre that were happening in western countries.

These progressions drew their inspiration from the vibrant cultures of both Ancient Greek and Ancient Rome. During his time in France, Rembrandt devoted his energy into incorporating these elements into his handiwork. These elements would then be seen in his later paintings from then on.

The First Thomas Jefferson Portrait (1800)

Rembrandt painted the first Thomas Jefferson portrait while serving in his final term as Vice president. This portrait received widespread praise from across the board for its positive depiction of the Vice President. The prevailing opinion at the time was that Jefferson's expression on the portrait radiated much warmth and gave off a sense of serenity and peace. It eventually became the more popular of the two portraits owing to the widespread adoration it received.

The Second Thomas Jefferson Portrait (1805)

Rembrandt painted the second Thomas Jefferson portrait at the White House at what was a very monumental period in the President's term in office. It not only marked a very successful first term in office for Thomas Jefferson, but also served to mark the beginning of a new term in office after being re-elected in a landslide victory.

It therefore served as a sequel to his last portrait which was painted right before he became president as well as bridge to the future that he looked forward to.

What stood out about the portrait was its stark contrast to the first. In the second portrait he chose not to have his hair dressed and to wear a cape over his coat unlike the other instance.

Rembrandt wouldn't have been able to get the opportunity to paint any of the two portraits had it not been for the avenues opened to him by his father, Charles Wilson Peale, who managed to teach all his children how to draw and paint scenery and portraiture. Charles went on to paint the portrait of the future president George Washington which inspired the young Rembrandt to do the same.

his painting by Rembrandt provide a perfect setting for President Thomas Jefferson's kind of lifestyle. This is the best painting that describes Thomas Jefferson, no wonder its unmatched reputation.

Thomas Jefferson in Detail Rembrandt.jpg