American, (1847-1923)
Still Life with Apples and Grapes
oil on board

oil on board
12 x 15 inches

  • Provenance: The artist; Austin Hawes, Hartford, Connecticut; Private Collection, Hartford, Connecticut.
  • Notes: A letter of authenticity from Hildegard Cummings author of "Charles Ethan Porter: African-American Master of Still Life," accompanies the lot.

    Framed dimensions: 19 1/2 x 22 1/2 x 2 3/4 inches

    Charles E. Porter was born to a free African American family in Rockville, Connecticut in 1874. As a young man he found inspiration in his mother's garden and in the landscape around him. He saved money to attend art school by working odd jobs. Shortly after the Civil War ended in 1869, Porter became the first African American to attend the National Academy in New York.

    In 1878, Porter set up a studio in Hartford where his still lifes of fruit and flowers attracted interest from local collectors. His most notable patron, Mark Twain, hung Porter's work prominently in his dining room. Frederic Edwin Church complimented the artist's use of color and purchased a painting from Porter's Hartford studio.

    An 1879 reviewer commented, "Charles E. Porter, a negro artist of Hartford [makes] admirable pictures of flowers, fruit, butterflies and other insects, all have a finesse and accuracy that would do credit to the microscopic finish of the old Flemish painters."

    In 1881, Porter organized an auction in his studio selling 100 paintings for $1,000– enough to fund a two-year trip to Paris. In Paris, he attended the French National Academy for Decorative Arts and the famed Académie Julian.

    When he returned to Connecticut, he produced some of his best works. Of the present canvas biographer, Hildegard Cummings writes, "For me, the "signature" is the painting itself…I feel certain that Porter painted this work. I would date it to the 1880s, very likely after his 1884 return from study in Paris. The painting has the lusher brushwork, subtler light and color, and compositional complexity that mark his post-Paris work."

    Cummings further notes, "I suspect this could be one of the paintings of apples and grapes that was in his Hartford 1887 joint auction with Daniel Wentworth." Sadly shortly after Porter's return from Paris the academic style was falling out of favor as Impressionism prevailed. Undeterred, Porter continued painting, creating some of his best works during this period of difficulty. In an attempt to stir interest, he mounted an exhibition of his work in Hartford and despite local support, the sale was unsuccessful. In addition to a change in taste, a poor economy, persistent racism and later poverty and illness led to a precipitous decline in Porter's career. After 1910, Porter struggled as an artist until his death in 1923. Not until around 1980 did historians, curators and dealers embrace Porter and his significance in the history of American art. Today he is considered a master of still-life.[1]

    [1] "Charles Ethan Porter," from Mattatuck Museum, https://www.mattmuseum.org/charles-ethan-porter/

    Tags: listed artist, still life, 19th century, oil painting, black artist, fruit, African American artist
  • Condition: overall very good condition; craquelure in the center above the grapes (see photos); in a period frame; recommend cleaning and varnish
    Condition Report Note:
    We are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Shannon’s is merely a subjective qualified opinion. Frames on all paintings are sold "As Is". Frames may need some conservation. NOTWITHSTANDING THIS REPORT OR ANY DISCUSSIONS CONCERNING CONDITION OF A LOT, ALL LOTS ARE OFFERED AND SOLD “AS IS” IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE CONDITIONS OF SALE. Thank you for your interest in our sale.

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