Flower Still Life, late 1880s

Oil on canvas

20-1/2 x 14-1/2 inches

John Henry Twachtman first exhibited a still life in 1871 at the McMicken School of Design in Cincinnati, where he was enrolled as a student.  He continued to paint flowers during his years in France, from 1883 to 1885;  a painting depicting a Normandy garden was the most prominent work in the artist's 1885 one-man exhibition at J. Eastman Chase's Gallery in Boston. 

Flower Still Life was probably created in the period following Twachtman's return from Europe in early 1886, and before his move to Greenwich, Connecticut, in approximately the fall of 1889.  This was a transitional time for the artist, a time when he maintained the subdued tonalities of his French style.  However, instead of applying his pigment in thin washes as he had in France, he began to use thick impasto, a practice he had adopted during the late 1870s, when he was a student in Munich.

Against a neutral, earth-colored background, a vibrant bouquet is arranged in a ceramic pitcher in Flower Still Life.  The flowers, treated in a generalized manner, are probably wildflowers; Twachtman was including the subject in a number of pastels created at the time.[1]

The free and spontaneous brushstrokes used to render the blooms anticipate the stylistic direction that Twachtman would follow in the years ahead.  Swirls of paint applied to canvas with a loaded brush reveal the artist's interest in conveying his immediate response to his subject.  During the 1890s, he would create a number of exuberant and vigorously painted depictions of the garden at his Greenwich home in which he would take this approach further.  Flower Still Life, a charming image of a simple yet lively cluster of blooms, looks forward to these adventurous Impressionist floral landscapes.


ŠThe essay herein is the property of Spanierman Gallery and is copyrighted by Spanierman Gallery.  It may not be reproduced without written permission from Spanierman Gallery nor shown or communicated to anyone without due credit being given to Spanierman Gallery.

[1]  For information on Twachtman's floral pastels, see Lisa N. Peters, et al, In the Sunlight:  The Floral and Figurative Art of J. H. Twachtman, exh. cat. (New York: Spanierman Gallery, 1989). 

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