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.
lower right: S. Roesen 1848
(James Graham & Sons, New York); purchased 1961 by the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington; acquired 2014 by the National Gallery of Art.
- Progress of an American Collection, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 26 October - 29 December 1963, unpublished checklist.
- Corcoran [ The American Genius], Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 24 January - 4 April 1976, no checklsit.
- 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Still Lifes from the Corcoran Collection, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 10 December - 1 April 1979, no. 3, unpublished checklist.
- Reflections of Nature: Flowers in American Art, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 29 February - 20 May 1984, unnumbered catalogue, repro.
- Loan for display with permanent collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 6 February - 30 March 1990.
- 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).
- The American Evolution: A History through Art, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 1 March-27 July 2008, unpublished checklist.
- American Journeys: Visions of Place, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 21 September 2013-28 September 2014, unpublished checklist.
- The Corcoran Gallery of Art Bulletin 12, no. 2 (May 1962): 10.
- Gerdts, William H and Russell Burke. American Still-Life Painting. New York, 1971: 61, repro. 71.
- Gerdts, William H. "On The Tabletop: Europe and America." Art in America 60 (1972): 63 repro.
- Mook, Maurice A. "Severin Roesen, The Williamsport Painter." Lycoming College Magazine 25, no. 6 (June 1972): 33, 37 repro.
- Phillips, Dorothy W. A Catalogue of the Collection of American Paintings in the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Vol. 2: Painters born from 1850 to 1910. Washington, 1973: 125, repro.
- Getlein, Frank. "Bill Corcoran's Collection IS America." Art Gallery 18,4 (January 1975): 16 repro.
- Landgren, Marchal E. "American Paintings at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington D.C." Magazine Antiques 108, no. 5 (November 1975): 950 repro.
- Gerdts, William H. " A Still Life by Severin Roesen." Register of the Museum of Art 5, no. 3 (1976): 33 repro.
- Marcus, Lois Goldreich. Severin Roesen: A Chronology. Williamsport, PA, 1976: 9,10 repro, 52.
- Gerdts, William H. " Amercian Still-Life Painting: Severin Roesen's Fruitful Abundance." Worcester Art Museum Journal 5 (1981-82): 9 repro.
- Foshay, Ella M. Reflections of Nature: Fleowers in American Art. New York, 1984: 104, 108 repro.
- O'Toole, Judith Hansen. "Earliest Known Roesen with Landscape Motif Discovered." American Art Journal 20, no.4 (1988): 99.
- Goddard, Donald. American Painting. New York, 1990: 122, 123 repro.
- O'Toole, Judith Hansen. Severin Roesen. Lewisburg, PA, 1992: 31, n.p. repro.
- Cash, Sarah, with Terrie Sultan. American Treasures of the Corcoran Gallery of Art. New York, 2000: 58 repro.
- Richman, Irwin. Pennsylvania German Arts: More Then Hearts, Parrots, and Tulips. Atglen, PA, 2000: 144 repro.
- 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.