Severin Roesen (1815-1872)
Nature's Bounty
oil on canvas
3614 x 5014 in. (62.1 x 127.6 cm.)
The artist.
Estate of the above.
Adam Davidson Galleries, Washington, D.C.
Sally Turner Gallery, Phoenix, Arizona, 1981.
Acquired by the late owners from the above.
J.H. O'Toole, Severin Roesen, London, 1992, pp. 84, 135, fig. 42, illustrated.
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Lot Essay

Although relatively little is known about Severin Roesen's life, working habits, education or artistic training, the body of work he left behind supports his position as one of the leading masters of mid-nineteenth-century American still-life painting. His still lifes of abundant fruit and flowers, modeled on the Dutch Baroque style, are magnificent examples of the taste for opulence during this period in American art. Dr. William H. Gerdts states that Roesen "is certainly the most famous of all mid-nineteenth-century American specialists today, and judging by the great number of enormous pictures painted by him, it seems that he also was tremendously popular in his own time. Furthermore, the many works that have appeared in recent decades, which are at least similar to Roesen's oeuvre suggest a powerful influence of Roesen upon other artists." (Painters of the Humble Truth, Columbia, Missouri, 1981, p. 84)

The present painting, Nature's Bounty, is a superb example of Roesen's interpretation of Dutch Baroque still lifes in its precision of detail and its clear, naturalistic renderings. The work portrays a brilliantly colored bouquet of flowers bountifully arranged on a marble ledge; Every specimen of flower, some dotted with water droplets, is represented in intricate detail. The grand bouquet overflows from a small vase, further enhancing the effect of abundance. The idyllic and fully-realized landscape in the background distinguishes this still life by adding interest beyond the central composition, while the charming birds nest and buzzing insects heighten the sense of nature reflected throughout the work.

Roesen went to great lengths to include a wide variety of fruit and flowers in each work and in his best works, "the fruit and flowers are combined in great proliferation, leaving no area unfilled. The fruit, flowers, birds' nest, and man-made decorative objects of ceramic and glass are sometimes poled up on a double-tiered table, the tiers almost always of grained grayish marble, which appears to have been his preference...they are also the ultimate embodiment of mid-century optimism, representing the richness of the land, the profusion of God's bounty in the New World, his blessing upon the American Eden throughout his cornucopia of plenitude." (Painters of the Humble Truth, p. 87)

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