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Painting of the Week

Painting of the Week – George Whitaker


George William Whitaker (1840- 1916), The Hayride, Oil on Canvas 26” x 36”              $2,800.

This painting is a remarkable Barbizon inspired landscape by George Whitaker. A student of George Inness, Whitaker painted expressive landscapes with big skies. There is a strong contrast between dramatic skies painted with free and forceful brushwork. The workers are headed home on top of the Hay wagon after a day’s work. This painting is a tribute to the honor and dignity of the laborers of the land.


George William Whitaker, was best known as a tonalist landscape artist, as well as a painter of fruit still-life and seascapes. He was respectfully called the “Dean of the Rhode Island Artists” for his stewardship of the fine arts in that community.  He was also an educator, becoming the first instructor in oil painting at the Rhode Island School of Design. Born in Fall River, Massachusetts, Whitaker was orphaned by age 2, and raised by

his maternal grandparents in Providence, RI. Attending Providence public schools, his talent at drawing was noticed. By age 14 he spent his youthful years as part of a Utopian community near Red Bank, New Jersey, known as “North American Phalanx”. He was apprenticed to his uncle, an engraver, in New York.  His artistic career started later than most as he worked as an engraver in New York City until age 31.

During his time working for his uncle the engraver in New York City, Whitaker became interested in painting. He began studying with the painters of the Hudson River School, and was mentored by the renowned landscape artists George Inness and Alexander Wyant. In 1870 he accompanied Inness to Europe, and went to study with Hungarian painter László Paál at the Julian Academy in Paris. Whitaker was heavily influenced by the painters of the Fontainebleau forest region in France, later known as the “Barbizon School”. Whitaker was a devotee of the Barbizon School throughout his life. Rather than depict nature as a background, they elevated natural scenes to be the subject of the artwork, with an overall tone of colored atmosphere or mist. In later life, Whitaker was not a fan of the more modern art movements coming out of Europe. He never abandoned his tonalist style. Whitaker exhibited at the National Academy in 1867 and 1869 and the Providence and Boston Art Clubs throughout the 1880s.

George Whitaker’s excellence in art is equaled by his contributions to the development of the nascent Rhode Island art community.  He shared studio space with renowned Rhode Island artist Sydney Burleigh in Burleigh’s Fleur-de-lys studio building. He wrote articles for the A.E. Society, a club for professional men which he organized. He actively offered art critique for multiple providence and rhode Island publications. He was instrumental in recognizing the need for an organization to nurture and support professional artists within the state.  In 1880, the Providence Art Club was formally founded by Whitaker and his colleagues Edward Bannister and Charles Walter Stetson. The club provided a professional association with fellow artists as well as a public forum in which to present their work.  Whitaker was also a founder of the Providence Water Color Club. Whitaker also played a significant role in the 1877 founding of the Rhode Island School of Design, as was its first instructor of oil painting.

His paintings are in many significant Rhode Island collections including the RI School of Design Museum, the RI Historical Society, the Providence Art Club, Brown University and the Moses Brown School. His work is also in the Kresge Art Museum at Michigan State University.

Cathy @ 10:55 am

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Painting of the Week – American Scene Painting

Jean Hogan (1909 – 1995)  Hartford, Ct    Oil on Board 24″ x 20″    Verso: Meridan Art Association Award and Estate Stamp, original frame  $1,500.

Jean Hogan, born in Hartford, Connecticut, worked and lived in Connecticut and Rhode Island, and summered on Monhegan Island, Maine. Her biography from a Brown University alumni magazine read” Jean V. Hogan ’31, Wickford, RI: Jan. 15. She was an art teacher in the South Kingstown, R.I., school system for many years before retiring, and also had taught at the Ethel Walker School in Simsbury, Connn. She studied art at the Rhode Island School of Design and the A.E. James School of Fine Art, and exhibited her paintings throughout New England. She had one-woman shows at New York City’s Morton Galleries and at the Harbor Art Galleries in Wickford.

Hogan was a painter, graphic artist and teacher. Her art portrays an eastern United States version of American Scene painting or Regionalism. The Oxford Dictionary of Art defines Regionalism as” Movement in American paintings… part of the wider category of American Scene painting.. in which artists concentrated on realistic depiction of scenes and types from the American Midwest and deep South The movement flourished during the 1930’s and early 1940’s. The motivation of the Regionalists, like that of all American Scene painters, derived from a patriotic desire to establish genuinely American art by the utilization of American subject-matter and the repudiation of inoovative artistic styles. In addition, they were moved by a nostalgic desire to glorify, or at lease to record, rural and small-town American as distinct from the new industrial urbanization, and it was from this that their widespread popularity drew its sustenance. Thomas Hart Benton was the vociferous mouthpiece of the group and prominent among them wee Grant Wood, Andrew Wyeth, Edward Hopper and John Stuart Curry, with Charles Burchfield and Ben Shahn on the fringes. Hooper was more

Born: 1909,
Lived: Hartford, Connecticut; Wickford, Rhode Island
Summered: Monhegen, Maine

Studied: Pembroke College, and artists J.G. McManus, A.E.Jones

Member: CAFA, New Haven PCC, Springfield Art League, Hartford: Society of Women Painters, South Country Art Club

Exhibited:   National Academy of Design, New Haven PCC
Springfield Art League, 1938 (prize), 1942 (prize)
Hartford Society Women Painters
Ogunquit Art Center
Brown University
South County Art Club
Morton Gallery, New York, 1945 (one-man)
Worlds Fair New York, 1939
Ethel Walker School, Simsbury, Connecticut
CAFA, 1943 (prize)

Cathy @ 7:11 am

Tagged in: Painting of the Week

Painting of the Week

Early scenes of Narragansett Bay are delightful.  This 1891 work on paper by Lewis shows the bustling activity of commercial sail boats delivering and transporting goods and sailors getting off the small dingy to come ashore.  A wonderful rendition of real time commerce in 1891.

Edmund Darch Lewis (1835 – 1910) Watercolor and gouache Newport Harbor $2,500.

Edmund Darch Lewis (1835-1910)

One of the most prolific and commercially successful American landscape painters of the late nineteenth century, Edmund Darch Lewis rendered crisply realistic images of shorelines, waterways, and rural scenes in the northeast that received popular acclaim during his era. Born in Philadelphia, into a well-to-do family, Lewis had professional art training as early as age 15 when he studied with German-born Paul Weber who was an active acolyte of the Hudson River School. At age 19 he first exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and was elected an Associate of the Academy in 1859, and became a full Academician of the Academy in 1862, at the precocious age of 27. Lewis never married and lived a comfortable existence with his parents up to the age of fifty.

Lewis’ early work is exclusively in oils, and is considered technically superior to his later work, and his work in watercolors. His preferred subject matter was landscapes of mountains, river scenes, and lakes. The large, detailed, and romantic landscapes that he painted between 1860 and 1876 reflect the influence of his famous contemporaries Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900) and Albert Bierstadt (1830-1902). He traveled extensively throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, and to the White Mountains of New Hampshire for over two decades, to acquire suitable venues. His extensive marine paintings throughout New England were popular, and Lewis became a highly successful and profilic artist in his lifetime. By the 1880s he had amassed a personal fortune, and turned much of his activities to becoming a collector of unique objects, furniture, china and decorative arts. He often traded his paintings to acquire objects.

Stylistically, Lewis’ work is considered one of the “Luminist” painters in the Hudson River School, because of the luminosity of the objects in his paintings. Later in his career, Lewis switched his primary medium to watercolor. While his watercolor paintings are considered outstanding and admired for their luminosity, he was known to have generated works rapidly and in large quantity at the later stage of his career.

Lewis exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts from 1854 to 1869, and was elected an associate of the Academy in 1859. He also showed at the National Academy of Design in New York (1860), the Boston Athenaeum (1858-69), and the Brooklyn Art Association (1862-70). Lewis’s work is in several public collections including the Mobile Museum of Art, Alabama; Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, Jacksonville, Florida; Worcester Art Museum, Massachusetts; Frederic Remington Art Museum, Ogdensburg, New York; and the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.


Cathy @ 4:52 pm

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Painting of the Week

This painting is an extraordinary example of the 19th Century African American artist from Rhode Island – Edward Bannister. The landscape with the mastery of pond reflections and a pale sky evidences why this artist won a medal at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition.

Edward Bannister (1828 – 1901) Landscape with Lily Pond and Bridge  Oil on Canvas 20” x 30”

Biography- Edward Bannister

Born and raised in the small seaport town of St. Andrews, New Brunswick, Canada, Bannister was the son of a black man from Barbados and a white woman from Canada. Shortly after his birth, the British had abolished slavery in all provinces of Canada, allowing Edward Bannister to be raised as a free man. His mother encouraged his talent in the arts at a young age, having both he and his brother tutored in literature, art and music. Unfortunately, by the age of 16, both his parents had died, leaving the Bannister brothers to provide for themselves. Working as a seaman, the young man travelled the Northeastern coast until he and his brother settled in Boston in 1848.

Boston was pivotal, both for Bannister’s developing identity as a man of color and his drive to succeed in the arts. From the 1830s on, Boston was a national center of both White and Black abolitionist activity. The city’s African-American community constituted the third largest population of free blacks in the north, and one of the most politically active in the country. He became an ardent supporter and voice in the abolitionist movement.

Despite requiring full-time employment in unrelated fields, Bannister managed to study and produce work as an artist. By the mid-1850s he had become known in the local community as a skilled portraitist, mostly in crayon. In 1854, Bannister received his first commission for an oil painting from Dr. John V. DeGrasse, a leading figure in Boston’s Black community. Entitled, The Ship Outward Bound (whereabouts unknown), the work depicts a ship under full sail, departing the harbor for a distant port. The Liberator, a periodical paper associated with the Black activist community, reported on the commission, which was to be the first of many Bannister seascapes. Raised near the sea, the artist returned to coastal scenes frequently in his artistic career. In the context of his times and circumstances as a Black American living in the pre-Civil War period, the subject of a ship leaving harbor, likely had both personal and political relevance to the artist. Imagery in The Ship Outward Bound would have powerful symbolism in African-American culture during the days of slavery in America, evoking the horrors of the transatlantic slave trade.

By 1853, Bannister had secured employment as a hairdresser in the establishment of Madame Cristiana Carteaux, a successful businesswoman, and his future wife, who owned a string of fashionable beauty salons in Boston and Providence. She was a woman of mixed Narragansett Indian and black heritage, well known and respected in the Boston African-American community. When Edward Bannister married Cristiana Carteaux in June 1857, her wealth allowed Bannister to become a full-time painter, which was instrumental in his career success. While Bannister had established himself as a young regionalist painter in Boston by the mid-1850s, one of its first African-American artists, it was his wife’s financial success that freed him from the necessity of mundane employment so he could concentrate on his development as an artist. Bannister credited Cristiana with critical guidance in his career as well. He stated later in life, “I would have made out very poorly had it not been for her, and my greatest successes have come through her, either through her criticisms of my pictures, or the advice she would give me in the matter of placing them in public.”

Although he was well educated, Bannister never had an opportunity for formal art training. Indeed even in the liberal-minded city of Boston, Bannister tasted a bitter lesson in reality for an African-American with the lofty ambition of a career in the arts. Contemporary biographers described his disheartening and fruitless search for an established artist who would take him on as a student. Denied academic training, studio apprenticeships or foreign travel, pathways considered the normal training grounds for young American artists. Museum visits and interaction with other artists were his primary source of training. By the mid-1860s, Bannister access to the larger arts community began to open. Around 1863, Bannister did become one of the first blacks who attended the Lowell Institute evening drawing program, where he received formal training under Dr. William Rimmer, noted physician and sculptor.

Although Bannister is primarily remembered as a landscape painter, a closer review of his works reveal he worked in a variety of genres. He repeatedly painted seascapes, as well as portraits, floral still life and religious scenes over his lifetime. Indeed Bannister advertised himself as a portrait painter for the first ten years of his career. His landscape painting style had a vigorous affinity for the French Barbizon mode from which he never strayed. Bannister may have regarded landscape painting as a genre in which he could overcome what he believed were his technical shortcomings. As noted, his formal artistic training with William Rimmer was brief, and he felt he never achieved a proficiency in depicting the human figure.

In late 1869, Bannister and his wife moved from Boston to Providence, where he became an active professional artist and respected leader in the artistic community. Providence and Newport provided fertile ground for the growth of a professional arts community. Fortunes made in textile and metal product manufacturing, provided a base of wealthy patronage that supported a growing number of artists. Bannister’s painting style and compositions had matured but continued to demonstrate his affinities with the Barbizon masters Jean-François Millet and Camille Corot. In his Barbizon-like landscapes, he produced a poetic view of tranquil lands with people and animals in harmony. According to John Nelson Arnold, a fellow artist and friend, “Bannister looked at nature with a poet’s feeling. Skies, rocks, fields were all absorbed and distilled through his soul and projected upon the canvas with a virile force and a poetic beauty.” Judging from the extant works of his Providence years and documented exhibitions, Bannister concentrated increasingly on interpreting the coastlines and inland views of the Rhode Island landscape.

His career flourished during the 1870s. By 1872, Bannister moved into a fourth floor studio in the Woods Building at 2 College Street in Providence. Known as the “artists floor”, it housed the studios of leading RI artists Sidney Burleigh, John Arnold, James Lincoln, and Frederick Batcheller. This remained his studio for the rest of his career. That year, his painting Summer Afternoon (whereabouts unknown) won an award of premium at the Rhode Island Industrial Exhibition. That year he also began submitting works to the prestigious Boston Art Club.

Bannister achieved national recognition when he won the bronze medal (first prize) in painting at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition with his work Under the Oaks (whereabouts unknown) in 1876. He not only bested leading American landscape artists as Albert Bierstadt and Frederick Church, but as a black man at that time in America, this achievement in the arts was unheard of. He submitted his painting Under the Oaks with no identification other than his signature and later recalled that when he appeared before the awards committee to claim his prize, “an explosion could not have created more of a sensation in that room”. He had other success with awards in Boston at the Massachusetts Charitable Mechanics Association in 1878 winning bronze, and in 1881 and 1884 winning silver.

In addition to critical success, Bannister’s works were in demand. With his increased artistic prestige, patronage also increased. Bannister’s works were collected by prominent white patrons including mechanical engineer and inventor George Henry Corliss (1817-1888), and noted art collectors Isaac Bates, and Joseph Ely, all wealthy Rhode Island entrepreneurs. His career success only enhanced his status as a leading figure in the Black community as well. Leading black figures such as restaurateur and political leader George T. Downing (1819-1903), educator John Hope (1868-1936) and the famed soprano Matilda Sissieretta Jones (1868-1933) all purchased Bannister paintings for their collections. An 1880 Philadelphia exhibition of works by the leading African-American artists featured Bannister paintings along with works by Henry Ossawa Tanner and Robert Scott Duncanson.

Bannister was a well-respected and influential painter among the professional artists of Providence. In 1878, he was one of the original board members of the newly established Rhode Island School of Design. With his friends and colleagues George Whitaker, Charles Walter Stetson, Bannister is regarded as a founder of the Providence Art Club in that same year. The first meeting of twelve artists and patrons was held in Bannister’s studio. By 1880 the club had grown in numbers and influence and was granted a charter. The Providence Art Club became central to the development of Providence’s art community, creating opportunities for exhibiting Providence artists and bringing them together with art lovers and patrons. From 1880 on, Bannister regularly exhibited works at both the Boston and Providence Art Clubs.

The last years of his life were marked by poor health. He suffered a fatal heart attack on January 9, 1901 while attending a prayer meeting at the Elmwood Street Baptist Church. In May his friends and colleagues at the Providence Art Club organized a memorial exhibition of 101 of his works.

Today his works are in all the major Rhode Island cultural institution collections including the Newport Art Museum, Newport Historical Society, Providence Art Club, Providence Athenaeum, Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Rhode Island Black Heritage Society, Rhode Island Historical Society, and Brown University. Nationally, his painting Newsboy (1869) is in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, as is Driving Home the Cows (1881), Moon over Harbor (c. 1868) and at least five other works. Bannister’s River Scene (1883) is in the collection at the Honolulu Museum of Art, while his painting, Boston Street Scene (Boston Common) is on display at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore. Of note, many of his major works remain in private hands or their whereabouts are unknown.

Sources:Corrine Jennings, Director Kenkelba House, Edward Mitchell Bannister
Michael David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art, Samella Lewis, African American Art and Artists


Cathy @ 4:23 pm

Tagged in: Painting of the Week

Bygone cityscapes

Recent auctions of American art at Grogan and Company in Boston verify the continued interest in cityscapes of bygone eras. Arthur Clifton Goodwin (1864 – 1929) painting of the Boston common fetched a healthy $6,000 concluding bid.

The Providence School artist, Stacy Tolman (1860 – 1935), a close friendship or Arts and Crafts extraordinaire S.R. Burleigh, painted this Providence scene “View from the First Baptist Church”.  Tolman was very much in tune with the preferences of the local art collector and Goodwin, a fellow Boston art colleague.

Tolman is the MET collection.

Cathy @ 6:03 am

Tagged in: Painting of the Week