Admission is always free Directions

Open today: 10:00 to 5:00

Overview

In this lush and fanciful image, Severin Roesen has arranged irises, tulips, cabbage roses, bluebells, and dahlias alongside an apple, an orange, half of a lemon, grapes, a pear, a peach, Italian plums, and a tiny stem of red currants. All appear at their height of bloom or ripeness, though this would have been impossible in nature (and they would have decayed before the artist could complete his composition). Given this element of fantasy, and because several motifs repeat throughout Roesen's hundreds of still lifes, scholars speculate that he may have employed some form of stencil or pattern.

This profuse array of flowers and fruit crisply rendered in bright, saturated colors unmistakably recalls 17th-century Dutch still-life painting, which Roesen was the first American artist to emulate in earnest. Several symbols employed in the earlier tradition also appear here. Ephemeral elements such as a ladybug, butterflies, and dew drops—traditionally suggesting the transience of life—are joined by a fly (symbolizing decay) and a nest of eggs (emblematic of fertility and abundance).

Still Life, Flowers and Fruit was executed shortly after Roesen immigrated to New York City from his native Germany, where he is thought to have begun his career painting fruit and flower designs on porcelain. Although he wasn't widely known during his lifetime, the artist did attract eager patrons in New York and later in prosperous Williamsport, Pennsylvania, for his elaborate renderings of the popular 19th-century theme of America's natural bounty.

Inscription

lower right: S. Roesen 1848

Provenance

(James Graham & Sons, New York); purchased 1961 by the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington; acquired 2014 by the National Gallery of Art.

Exhibition History
1963
Progress of an American Collection, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 26 October - 29 December 1963, unpublished checklist.
1976
Corcoran [ The American Genius], Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 24 January - 4 April 1976, no checklsit.
1979
The Object as Subject: American Still Lifes from the Corcoran Collection, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 10 December - 1 April 1979, no. 3, unpublished checklist.
1984
Reflections of Nature: Flowers in American Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 29 February - 20 May 1984, unnumbered catalogue, repro.
1990
Loan for display with permanent collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 6 February - 30 March 1990.
2005
Encouraging American Genius: Master Paintings from the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, NY; Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte; John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, 2005-2007, checklist no. 18 (shown in Washington only).
2008
The American Evolution: A History through Art, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 1 March-27 July 2008, unpublished checklist.
2013
American Journeys: Visions of Place, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 21 September 2013-28 September 2014, unpublished checklist.
Bibliography
1962
Corcoran Gallery of Art. 12, no. 2 (May 1962): 10.
1971
Gerdts, William H and Russell Burke. American Still-Life Painting. New York, 1971: 61, 71 repro.
1972
Gerdts, William H. "On The Tabletop: Europe and America." Art in America 60 (1972): 63 repro.
1972
Mook, Maurice A. "Severin Roesen, The Williamsport Painter." Lycoming College Magazine 25, no. 6 (June 1972): 33, 37 repro.
1973
Phillips, Dorothy W. A Catalogue of the Collection of American Paintings in the Corcoran Gallery of Art. 2 vols. Washington, 1973: 1:125 repro.
1975
Getlein, Frank. "Bill Corcoran's Collection IS America." Art Gallery 18,4 (January 1975): 16 repro.
1975
Landgren, Marchal E. "American Paintings at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C." Magazine Antiques 108, no. 5 (November 1975): 950 repro.
1976
Gerdts, William H. " A Still Life by Severin Roesen." Register of the Museum of Art 5, no. 3 (1976): 33 repro.
1976
Marcus, Lois Goldreich. Severin Roesen: A Chronology. Williamsport, PA, 1976: 9,10 repro, 52.
1981
Gerdts, William H. " Amercian Still-Life Painting: Severin Roesen's Fruitful Abundance." Worcester Art Museum Journal 5 (1981-82): 9 repro.
1984
Foshay, Ella M. Reflections of Nature: Fleowers in American Art. New York, 1984: 104, 108 repro.
1988
O'Toole, Judith Hansen. "Earliest Known Roesen with Landscape Motif Discovered." American Art Journal 20, no.4 (1988): 99.
1990
Goddard, Donald. American Painting. New York, 1990: 122, 123 repro.
1992
O'Toole, Judith Hansen. Severin Roesen. Lewisburg, PA, 1992: 31, n.p. repro.
2000
Cash, Sarah, and Terrie Sultan. American Treasures of the Corcoran Gallery of Art. New York, 2000: 58 repro.
2000
Richman, Irwin. Pennsylvania German Arts: More Then Hearts, Parrots, and Tulips. Atglen, PA, 2000: 144 repro.
2011
Strong, Lisa. "Severin Roesen, Still Life, Flowers and Fruit." In Corcoran Gallery of Art: American Paintings to 1945. Edited by Sarah Cash. Washington, 2011: 92-93, repro.