Lot 36
  • 36

Severin Roesen 1815 or 1816 - circa 1872

Estimate
500,000 - 700,000 USD
Sold
602,500 USD
bidding is closed

Description

  • Severin Roesen
  • Flowers
  • signed S. Roesen and dated 1850, l.l.
  • oil on canvas

Provenance

American Art Union, 1851
N.P. Hood, 1852 (acquired from the above)
Private Collection, New Jersey
Babcock Galleries, New York (acquired from the above)
Manoogian Collection, Taylor, Michigan, by 1979
Jordan-Volpe Galleries, New York, by 1992
Private Collection
Carol Strone Fine Art, New York
Acquired by the present owner from the above

Exhibited

New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, American Paintings from the Manoogian Collection, 1979

Literature

Judith Hansen O'Toole, Severin Roesen, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, 1992, illustrated in color pl. 2
American Selections 1850-1950, Jordan-Volpe Gallery, New York, 1992, p. 134, illustrated in color p. 135

Catalogue Note

Dr. Judith H. O'Toole, Director and CEO of the Westmoreland Museum of American Art recognized scholar on Severin Roesen and author of two books on the artist, published the following article on Flowers entitled "Earliest Known Roesen with Landscape Motif Discovered" in the Spring 1989 edition of The American Art Journal:

A recently discovered canvas by Severin Roesen adds significantly to our knowledge of the development of the artist's style, particularly his use of landscape as a backdrop to his lush still lifes.

The painting is a floral composition, an oil on canvas measuring 33 x 24 inches, signed "S. Roesen" in the artist's early signature style of block lettering.  Importantly, it is also dated below the signature, "1850", thereby contributing to the relatively small number of dated canvases by the artist.I  The dimensions and a fragment of an American Art-Union label suggest that it may be the painting Flowers exhibited at the American Art-Union in 1851, purchased by the Union Committee, and resold in 1852.2  Unfortunately, the Art-Union records do not offer a description of the composition but the dimensions listed match those of the newly discovered work and do not fit any other extant painting of record.3 Further evidence that the paintings are the same is that the newly found canvas is the only floral still life by Roesen bearing a signature and dated 1850.

The painting, now in a private collection, is the earliest known dated work by Roesen to use a landscape background.4 It was executed during Roesen's ten-year-stay in New York. Before the discovery of this work, it was thought that Roesen did not produce a still life with landscape background until he moved to Pennsylvania, about 1859-1860, first to Huntingdon, then to Williamsport. Thought by this writer and others to have been stimulated by the beauty of the mountains of central Pennsylvania, the landscape motif in Roesen's work now seems to have been one with which the artist experimented while still in New York. The newly discovered painting contains many of the flower types and other hallmarks of Roesen's style. Of note are the pink cabbage roses and blue morning glories which so frequently appear in the lower left corner of Roesen's bouquets; the red and yellow primroses unusual in any other artist's repertoire for still life; the bird's nest holding three eggs, almost his signature detail; and the insects - a fly, a yellow butterfly, and a ladybug. Many of these elements also appear in Still Life, Flowers and Fruit of 1848 (Corcoran Gallery of Art), the earliest known signed and dated canvas by Roesen.5 In the Corcoran painting, and in the recently found canvas, the soft flowing lines of a gentle "S" curve form the skeletal structure of the composition - a device frequently found in the European still-life tradition. A significant difference between the two paintings under discussion is the presence of a garden setting filling the background of the later picture while the canvas dated 1848 uses Roesen's more typical backdrop of one color lightening somewhat from left to right of the canvas. Fruit Still-Life with Wine Glass and Coins in a Landscape of 1861 (oil on canvas, 16 x 22 inches, private collection), executed in Williamsport, was formerly thought to be the first dated painting to include a garden or landscape setting.6  Similar marble plinth with urn on the left of the composition appears in the painting of 1850 with the addition in the later work of a wrought iron fence. On the right, however, the two paintings are very different. The earlier canvas suggests the continuation of a cultivated, formal garden with more architectural elements in the verdure while the canvas from Williamsport features a deep view into a mountainous landscape animated by a winding river and cumulous clouds. The recently discovered canvas is an important addition to Roesen's oeuvre, painted during the early years of his stay in New York. It reflects the confidence and optimism of a talented artist, recently escaped from the turmoil of Germany at mid-century, who quickly established himself in a new country and major American city.

Notes:

1. Only 32 of 357 paintings by Roesen currently recorded are signed and dated. Six date from 1850: five are fruit compositions, the sixth is the floral piece under discussion here.
2. Mary Bartlett Cowdrey, American Academy of Fine Arts and American Art-Union Exhibition Record 1816-1852, with a history of the American Academy by Theodore Sizer and a foreword by James Thomas Flexner (New York, 1953), 2 vols. The American Art-Union not only exhibited works but also purchased them for distribution by lottery to members at the following annual meeting. By 1851 it was clear that revenues could not cover expenses and this, coupled with a legal suit which arose over the lottery method, caused an auction of the Art-Union assets in December of 1852. It was at this sale that Roesen's painting Flowers was sold for $45.00 to N. P. Hood. The American Art-Union had paid $66.00 for Flowers in 1851. Although Volume I of Cowdrey lists biographies of most of the major buyers of artwork from the sale of 1852, no information is listed for Hood. Other works purchased by Hood were: "Bingham (2), Boughton, Boutelle, S. Cole, Dassell (2), Gignoux, Glass, Helff (8), Peele [sic], .... Wandesforde (2), Waterson (2), Wengler (4)," showing him to be a serious buyer.
3. Cowdrey, Vol. II, p. 309. "Roesen, S ... 1852 American Art Union Sale 11. Flowers. 24 x 33. $45.00. Hood, 1851, no. 19." The dimensions in the catalogue were probably given in reverse.  
4. The painting was found in New Jersey and was purchased by a New York gallery before entering the private collection.
5. William Gerdts and Russell Burke, American Still-Life Painting (New York, 1971). Fig. 5-9, p. 71.
6. Reproduced in Lois Goldreich Marcus, Severin Roesen: A Chronology.

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