Fruit Still Life in a Landscape

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Fruit Still Life in a Landscape

United States, circa 1862-1872
Paintings
Oil on canvas
36 5/16 x 50 1/2 in. (92.10 x 128.27 cm)
Gift by exchange of Jo Ann and Julian Ganz, Jr. and Mary and Will Richeson, Jr. (M.77.126)
Not currently on public view

Curator Notes

The stylistic source for the clarity and sculptural presence of Roesen’s fruit still-life compositions easily can be traced to artists in his north German background, but little there anticipates the ...
The stylistic source for the clarity and sculptural presence of Roesen’s fruit still-life compositions easily can be traced to artists in his north German background, but little there anticipates the exuberant energy of his mature American style. Fruit Still Life in a Landscape was commissioned by Mrs. Alma White of Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Its provenance and similarity to the large painting of fruit, n.d., in the collection of the Lycoming Hotel, Williamsport, firmly date the museum’s painting to the period the artist lived in Williamsport. Few of his fruit pieces from the 1860s are dated, and his mature style, once established, did not change much in his fruit still-life compositions until very late. The presence of a landscape background in the Fruit Still Life with Wine Glass and Coins in a Landscape, dated 1861 (private collection), suggests a date in the early 1860s for the museum’s painting, but a painting with a more similar landscape background bears the date of 1867 (Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth, Texas). A still life of flowers with a landscape background (private collection) bears the date of 1850, but it appears that Roesen used such backgrounds more often during the 1860s. The landscape in the museum’s painting is an unusual feature that adds a dramatic note. Roesen’s adoption of landscape backgrounds is thought to reflect the taste, inspired by the English Pre-Raphaelites, for still-life compositions in a natural setting. Roesen’s response is a somewhat artificial compromise, in which he set his conventional tabletop still life in front of a landscape, with little connection between the two. His landscape compositions almost always conform to the formula of trees and road on the left, clouded sky and distant hills on the right. Numerous other aspects of the museum’s painting also employ formulas familiar in Roesen’s work, for instance, the corner of a gold-fringed pillow emerging from a fold in a large cloth. Roesen’s central theme is that of abundant fruitfulness. The composition is so crowded that it appears as though a great cornucopia is spilling fruit from one tier to the other and out into the viewer’s space. Roesen uses the trompe l’oeil device of having fruits and leaves overhang the edges of the table, but this confuses the sense of space within the painting; the predominant appearance is that of a single wall of fruit, which enhances the painting’s decorative character. The color in the museum’s painting is exceptionally strong for the artist. The primary colors are announced in the group of lemon peel, cherries, and blue plum on the lower shelf. Elsewhere the colors are more mixed, except in the brilliant red of the strawberries high on the footed milk-glass dish.
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About The Era

After the Jacksonian presidency (1829–37), the adolescent country began an aggressive foreign policy of territorial expansion, exemplified by the success of the Mexican-American War (1846–48)....
After the Jacksonian presidency (1829–37), the adolescent country began an aggressive foreign policy of territorial expansion, exemplified by the success of the Mexican-American War (1846–48). Economic growth, spurred by new technologies such as the railroad and telegraph, assisted the early stages of empire building. As a comfortable and expanding middle class began to demonstrate its wealth and power, a fervent nationalist spirit was celebrated in the writings of Walt Whitman and Herman Melville. Artists such as Emanuel Leutze produced history paintings re-creating the glorious past of the relatively new country. Such idealizations ignored the mounting political and social differences that threatened to split the country apart. The Civil War slowed development, affecting every fiber of society, but surprisingly was not the theme of many paintings. The war’s devastation did not destroy the American belief in progress, and there was an undercurrent of excitement due to economic expansion and increased settlement of the West.
During the postwar period Americans also began enthusiastically turning their attention abroad. They flocked to Europe to visit London, Paris, Rome, Florence, and Berlin, the major cities on the Grand Tour. Art schools in the United States offered limited classes, so the royal academies in Germany, France, and England attracted thousands of young Americans. By the 1870s American painting no longer evinced a singleness of purpose. Although Winslow Homer became the quintessential Yankee painter, with his representations of country life during the reconstruction era, European aesthetics began to infiltrate taste.
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Bibliography

  • About the Era.
  • O'Toole, Judith Hansen. Severin Roesen. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1992.
  • Fort, Ilene Susan and Michael Quick.  American Art:  a Catalogue of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art Collection.  Los Angeles:  Museum Associates, 1991.
  • About the Era.
  • O'Toole, Judith Hansen. Severin Roesen. Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1992.
  • Fort, Ilene Susan and Michael Quick.  American Art:  a Catalogue of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art Collection.  Los Angeles:  Museum Associates, 1991.
  • LACMA: Obras Maestras 1750-1950: Pintura Estadounidense Del Museo De Arte Del Condado De Los Angeles. Mexico, D.F.: Museo Nacional de Arte, 2006.
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