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Artists’ Birthdays: April the 19th – Charles Ethan Porter (1847)

April 19, 2012

Would you like to know it all? We would! That’s why the theme for our Know It All Section for 2012 is Artists’ Birthdays. We hope that these posts will help to increase our and your knowledge in Art History. Lets get acquainted with more painters, lets recognise their artwork and be inspired by the masterpieces!

“Celebrated by his contemporaries as one of the most skilled still-life painters, Charles Ethan Porter (1847/49 – 1923) is best known for his stylistic range that merges meticulous realism and rich colors with fluid brushwork and sophisticated spatial effects” – that’s how this painter was described for one of his exhibitions. To be honest I’m not too keen on such “sweet” realism, yet I admire the artist’s skill to notice every detail and, using very fine brushes, to portray that reality as if it was an image frozen in time. There’s not much known about Mr.Porter, so we will let his paintings speak for themselves…

Charles Ethan Porter (c. 1847 – March 6, 1923), was an African American still life painter.

Porter was born in or about 1847 in Hartford, Connecticut. His family moved to the nearby village of Rockville by the early 1850s. He graduated from the local high school in 1865.

Charles Ethan Porter, Mountain Laurel, 1858

In 1869, after two years of art study at Wesleyan Academy in Wilbraham, Massachusetts, Porter went on to study at New York’s National Academy of Design and was one of the first African Americans to exhibit at the Academy. In 1873 and 1875, he held an exhibit for the American Society of Painters in water color. A subsequent 1876 exhibit was at the National Academy of Design.

In 1878, he opened a studio in Hartford, Connecticut. In 1879, Frederic Church commended Porter’s paintings. When he traveled to Paris several years later, he took with him a letter of recommendation from Mark Twain.

Charles Ethan Porter, Cracked Watermelon, 1890

While in France, in 1881, he enrolled in the Ecole des Arts Decoratifs. He was in France from late 1881 to early 1884, probably also studying at the Académie Julian. He spent several months in the French countryside as well, including the village of Fleury, near Barbizon. Porter returned to the U.S. and opened a studio in New York City in 1885, and then returned to Hartford, where he opened a studio in 1887.

Charles Ethan Porter, Peonies in a Bowl, 1885

He left Hartford for Rockville in 1889, where he briefly had a studio in the Fitch Block, and later at the remains of a tower on Fox Hill, which a family member owned.

In 1910, Porter become a charter member of the Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts.

Charles Ethan Porter, Mountain Laurel, 1888

Later, his fortunes declined, possibly because of health issues and certainly because of mounting racism nationwide, and he sold his paintings door-to-door in Rockville, Connecticut, where he died in 1923 in virtual obscurity, around the age of 75.

— — —

In recent years, Porter has been rediscovered and is now remembered as the creator of minor masterpieces of American still life painting. He is most famous for fruit and floral still life.

Information for this post found on Wikipedia.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. kassiastclair permalink
    April 19, 2012 1:16 pm

    These are lovely – the texture of that watermelon is just perfect. And I’d never even hear of Charles Ethan Porter!

    • April 19, 2012 4:22 pm

      Thank you for leaving a comment. I agree with you – that watermelon is stunning, I think I can even smell it… it’s that real!

  2. thecolourofideas permalink
    April 19, 2012 7:09 pm

    What lovely paintings I like the laurels, and how sad that he died in virtual obscurity.

  3. April 20, 2012 5:03 pm

    Beautiful pictures!

  4. April 22, 2012 2:58 pm

    They look so alive!

  5. April 23, 2012 10:15 pm

    Never heard of him either – but these are my kind of paintings for sure 🙂 I love the first Mountain Laurel picture – and I also think peonies are scrumptious – so going soft for that one too!! 😉 Hope you’re well x

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