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E. C. Leavitt

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.

E. C. Leavitt
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