Object Lessons: American Still-Life Painting in the Nineteenth Century

September 4 - December 16, 2018

Still-life painting was popular with many nineteenth-century American artists and viewers. Pennsylvania, in particular, has a rich tradition of specialists in still life. This exhibition featured works by skilled still-life painters identified with the Commonwealth, notably William Michael Harnett, Albert F. King, Rubens Peale, John Frederick Peto, and Severin Roesen. Object Lessons also included a varied roster of important artists who gravitated to depicting inanimate objects amid the rising commodity culture and cosmopolitan networks of the Gilded Age, among them William Mason Brown, William Merritt Chase, Charles Caryl Coleman, Martin Johnson Heade, and Elihu Vedder. 


Surveying the early chapter of still life in America through twenty-two paintings, this exhibition reflected on the close scrutiny and meaning of commonplace things. Rarely seen loans from private collectors complement the holdings of the Palmer to explore how flowers, fruit, and simple household objects have transfixed and beguiled viewers from the nineteenth century to the present day. 


Organized by the Palmer Museum of Art. Generous support for this project is provided by Art Bridges. 


Charles Caryl Coleman, Still Life with Peach Blossoms, 1877, oil on canvas, 71½ x 25¼ inches. On loan from Art Bridges.