American, 1828-1901

Cows Grazing Under the Oaks

1893, oil on canvas
signed and dated E.M. Bannister 93 lower right
24 x 36 in., frame: 35 3/4 x 47 3/4 in.

  • Provenance: Private Collection, Pennsylvania; Christie's New York, September 15, 2005, Fine American Paintings, Lot 61; The Collection of a Rhode Island Doctor.
  • Literature: This work will be included in the forthcoming E.M. Bannister Catalogue Raisonne by Anne Louise Avery.

    - [likely] The Providence Art Club, July 1893, as Afternoon. In a review of the exhibition, the Providence Journal described the work as a depiction of cows feeding in the deep grass and in the distance towering trees...[and an] admirable effect of cloudy sky.
    - The Providence Art Club, Providence, Rhode Island, E.M. Bannister Retrospective Exhibition, Fall 2010.
  • Notes:
    Providence artist Edward Bannister created a sensation when his painting Under the Oaks won first prize at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876. Working in the 19th century, he faced an uphill battle to become one of the few African American painters to garner significant recognition in his day. Born in New Brunswick, Canada he moved to Boston where he began formal training in the 1860s under Dr. William Rimmer, who admitted Bannister as the only African American student in his evening drawing classes. In 1870, Bannister moved with his wife to Providence, Rhode Island, where he found a thriving community of African American artists and took a studio in the Woods Building, where he would continue to work for the remainder of his career. His position among the Providence art society was cemented in 1878 when, while serving on the board of the Rhode Island Schools of Design, he founded what would later become the Providence Art Club with fellow artists George Whitaker and Charles Stetson.

    The present work, Cows Grazing Under the Oaks, relates directly to Bannister's 1876 Under the Oaks. Though that work has been lost since the turn of the 20th century, sketches of it remain, and many of the qualities that made it a prizewinning painting can be understood through a visual analysis of Cows Grazing Under the Oaks, one of only three extant Bannister works to depict the detailed serrated leaves of oak trees. In this work, Bannister uses varied areas of light and shadow to draw the viewer's eye through his painting. The cows grazing at the center of the composition are gently encircled by the dark arms of mature oak trees, a symbol of strength. The ground in front of cows is in the shadow of the oaks, while a golden pasture is illuminated beyond the cows, with a second herd just visible. A patch of blue sky completes the composition, separated from the bright meadow by a layer of drawn trees on the horizon. This harmonious composition demonstrates how Bannister imbued the artistic tradition of the French Barbizon school with the philosophical ideals of New England's Transcendentalist movement, creating paintings that push the viewer to pause and consider the relationship between man, nature, and the divine.
  • Condition: Overall good condition. Faint stretcher wear in upper right corner, visible in raking light. A few scattered flecks of inpainting visible under UV, most notably in black cow, center.

    Please note: All property is sold "AS IS" and any statement, whether oral or written, is given as a courtesy and shall not be deemed as a guarantee, warranty, or representation of the authenticity of authorship, physical condition, size, quality, rarity, importance, provenance, exhibitions, literature or historical relevance of the property or otherwise. The absence of a condition report does not imply the item is in perfect condition.

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November 5, 2022 11:00 AM EDT
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