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Details & Cataloguing

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Francis Augustus Silva, 1835 - 1886
THE BEACH AT LONG BRANCH, NEW JERSEY
signed 'Silva' (lower right); also inscribed 'The Beach at Long Branch/Francis A. Silva/470 Broadway, N.Y.' on a label affixed to the stretcher; oil on canvas
12 by 24 inches
(30.5 by 61 cm)
Painted circa 1869.
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Provenance

Sold: Sotheby's, New York, May 30, 1984, lot 7, illustrated
A. Alfred Taubman, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan (acquired at the above sale)

Literature

Mark D. Mitchell, Francis A. Silva (1835-1886), In His Own Light, New York, 2002, p. 124 

Catalogue Note

Before the onset of the Civil War, Francis Silva apprenticed under a commercial painter in New York City, where he spent his days decorating signs, fire wagons and stage coaches.  In 1861, Silva enlisted in a New York militia regiment, rising to the rank of Captain in the 1st New York Volunteer Infantry. His military service brought him to Lynn, a town on the northeastern coast of Massachusetts, where he served as steward of an Army hospital. Silva returned to New York in 1867 and opened his first studio, launching his professional painting career. Evidently inspired by his time in Massachusetts, Silva traveled along the New England and mid-Atlantic coastlines throughout the warm summer months executing sketches that he developed into finished works in his studio. Silva exhibited regularly at prestigious New York institutions including the National Academy of Design and the Brooklyn Academy of Art, garnering a reputation as an important Luminist painter.

Executed circa 1869, the present painting depicts a scene of middle-class leisure on the beach at Long Branch, New Jersey, the coastal town where Silva eventually moved with his wife and two children in 1880. The gentle tonal composition coupled with the escapist subject matter offers an intimate view into Silva’s response to nature and the aftermath of Civil War. The theme of fashionable figures enjoying a day at the beach was explored by numerous American artists of the period, most notably Winslow Homer who also depicted the beach at Long Branch in numerous paintings, drawings and wood engravings of 1869-70.   As a writer for Appleton’s Journal commented in 1874, “Certainly there are not many places where Fashion can be found purer and less adulterated than at Long Branch, where one gets so little else.

"...there must be a subtle, potent charm in a place which yearly attracts thousands of pleasure-seekers and is rapidly coming to rank first among the watering-places of the Union. Less brilliant, perhaps, than Saratoga, less select than Newport, it is probably gayer than either, and certainly quite as popular” (as cited in Nicolai Cikovsky, Jr. and Franklin Kelly, Winslow Homer, Washington, D.C., 1995, p. 79).

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