David Crane (1806–1849) and his wife, Catherine (1814–1889), were originally from Pultneyville, New York. They were among the many western New York families who migrated to Illinois during the 1830s, attracted by the promise of plentiful and fertile soil. The Cranes traveled to Aurora, Illinois, by covered wagon in 1834, the year the town was first settled. A few years later, they commissioned impressive portraits of themselves and other family members. Although photography was available by this time, the painted portrait held the weight of tradition and afforded the luxury of scale and color. The realism and aesthetic of the studio portrait, however, had a profound effect that is evident in this work by Sheldon Peck.
The artist began painting about 1820 in his native Vermont before moving to western New York, and then to Illinois. Peck’s earliest efforts were stark and sober bust-length portraits on wooden panels. In Illinois, he introduced a brighter palette and a larger format of full-length figures. The trompe-l’oeil frame was an added inducement, as the portrait was ready to hang without any further expense.
Stacy C. Hollander, "David and Catherine Stolp Crane," exhibition label for Jubilation|Rumination: Life, Real and Imagined. Stacy C. Hollander, curator. New York: American Folk Art Museum, 2012.