The beauty of art is how artists approach the canvas from their individual thoughtful perspective. The result is great art from different perspectives and a range of styles.
The rendering of a peach has evolved from the early self-taught artists such as Batcheller, to the succesfully trained artists such as Leavitt and finally to the remarkable Peers with his modernist interpretation of still life.
Here are three artists, three perspectives of the same topic.
1. F. S. Batcheller (1837 – 1889)Oil on Canvas 16” x 22” Peaches
$2,500. SALE $2,200.
2. E.C. Leavitt (1842-1904) Peach and Grapes, 1878, Oil on Canvas 12″ x 8″,
$850. SALE $750.
3. Gordon Peers (1909 – 1988), Apple Still Life Oil on Canvas 20” x 24” ,
$3,500. SALE $3,200
Provenance: Newport Art Museum, Still Life exhibition
F. S. Batcheller 1837 – 1889 “The color in his is fruit is generally excellent; nor is it always in the intense and highly contrasted vein that fruit painters generally take so much satisfaction in.” Providence Journal review 1889
Reminds me of L.E. Wilmarth (1835 – 1918) founder of the Art Students League of New York or National Academy of Design who was fond of still life painting.
Frederick Stone Batcheller began his art career as an apprentice with Tingley Brothers Marble Cutters, a prominent Providence firm. For a short while, Batcheller sculpted marble busts but hisattentions quickly turned to painting and he was committed to the craft by 1855. In that same year, Batcheller became part of “The 1855 Group” which was the first organization of artists to promote the artistic and cultural development of Providence. This group also included John Arnold, Thomas Robinson, James Lewin, and Marcus Waterman. In 1858, Batcheller opened a studio at 33 S. Main St and entered art professionally. Later, in 1880, Batcheller would be involved in the founding of the Providence Art Club; he was one of the original 16 charter signers of the Providence Art Club Compact.
Batcheller’s worked in oil and he is best known for his still life of fruit but he also painted flowers, landscapes, marines, and animals. While Batcheller worked very diligently on his painting and was well-respected by his colleagues, he never achieved a level of recognition comparable to that of his colleagues during his career. A Memorial Exhibition of his work was held at the Providence Art Club in 1889 and was well-received. The Providence Journal reviewed the show and said that Batcheller was, “Most successful in fixing the glowing color and vivid contrasts in rendering the various textures and surfaces…in the rounded, rich and shadowy masses of fruit compositions he was most at ease…The color in his is fruit is generally excellent; nor is it always in the intense and highly contrasted vein that fruit painters generally take so much satisfaction in.” Batcheller’s paintings stand out among others in the thriving still life genre scene in Providence and nearby Fall River, Massachusett.
E.C. Leavitt (1842 – 1904) E. C. Leavitt was one of the most popular and widely known artists within the Providence community during his lifetime. This was due largely to his choice and manner of painting still life.
The artist was the son of the minister of the Richmond Street Congregational Church. He was primarily self-taught with the exception of some introduction from J. Lewin. While Lewin did not share the popularity that Leavitt did, he is actually recognized today as the better still life painter. The primary difference between the two artists is that Lewin chose a more poetic and interpretive view when painting still life where Leavitt sought a realistic and material point of view. Leavitt’s concentration on a more transcriptional painting of fruit and flower was widely popular because of the technical proficiency it demonstrated.
After a brief interruption in his painting career, to serve in the Navy during the Civil War, Leavitt resumed painting at the Merchants Bank Building. Later he moved to the Hoppin Homestead Building, setting up a studio next to the other popular still life artist Emma Swan. Here Leavitt produced numerous still life paintings, perhaps thousands. He became known for being an untiring worker whose art was in constant demand. John N. Arnold ranked him among the foremost in his profession in technique declaring that his work stands close to the European masters.
Interestingly enough, much of Leavitt’s success was largely due to the introduction of photography after the war which caused portrait painting commissions to decline and still life to emerge as a popular art form. He is recognized today as a significant still life artist with his works exhibited throughout the United States. E.C. Leavitt contributed to the Rhode Island art community not only by the high standard of art he painted but also as a member of the Providence Art Club and teacher of many Rhode Island artists.
Gordon Peers 1909 – 1988 An independent and disciplined painter, Gordon Peers acquired technical and theoretical art sophistication early in his career. Peers came under the influence of Frazier as a Rhode Island School of Design student, then went on to become Frazier’s colleague when he later returned to his Alma mater to teach. The two would remain good friends throughout their lives, but their aesthetic paths would differ. Early on Peers had a tremendous success with his tightly delineated still life compositions, similar in technique to that of John Frazier. These canvases saw national exhibition at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Corcoran Art Gallery, Carnegie Institute and the National Academy of Design in the 1940’s. But by the 1950’s the influence of Cezanne became evident in Peer’s work and the painter began a lifetime of experimentation which would culminate in a body of thickly painted, brightly palette still lifes and landscapes. These signature pieces, which differed significantly from his mentor’s work, were like stained glass canvases. During his life time, these later works never received the critical attention of early works. Unfortunately, this was primarily due to the dominance of abstract expressionism in the art world which left little room for the methodical and developed painting of Peers.
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