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Francis Augustus Silva American  1835 - 1886
The Old House by the River  1881
Oil on Canvas
21 x 42 inches, sight
Signed and inscribed
Category: Paintings - American
Era: 19th Century
Subject: Coastal
Style: Luminism
Francis A. Silva, 1835-1886, The Old House by the River, 1881, oil on canvas, unframed size: 21 x 42, unlined, with no restoration. Period frame, signed and inscribed.

Francis A. Silva was born in New York City, one of two children born to Francis John Silva (little is know about his mother except that she was also a native New Yorker). As a schoolboy, Silva exhibited pen drawings at the American Institute. His parents, however, did not want him to pursue a career as an artist. As a result, he apprenticed at several trades before ending up with a sign painter. He worked in that trade until the out break of the Civil War in 1861.

Silva actually began his art career after serving in the Seventh Regiment of the New York State Militia during the Civil War. Advancing from lieutenant to captain, Silva was soon stricken with "miasmatic disease." He was dishonorably discharged for desertion when he left his regiment, but was soon reinstated. His debut as a painter was at the National Academy of Design's annual exhibition of 1868-1869. His earliest known painting, however, is "Cape Ann" (1870, Coe Kerr Gallery).

His reputation developed as a marine painter where he became known for exaggerating and intensifying natural effects of light and air for poetic purposes. His subtle manipulation of light and atmosphere was an aesthetic device that transcended naturalism and became an almost abstract means of expressing sentiment. As a result he was one of the leaders in the American Luminist movement.

By 1870, Silva had developed, for a self-taught artist, a remarkably skillful technique and a repertoire of marine subject and atmospheric effects. These techniques varied little throughout the remainder of his life. He evolved from the somewhat tentative handling of such early canvases as 'Sunrise: Marine View" (1870, Hirschl and Adler Galleries) to the crisper forms of such later works as View Near New London, Connecticut (1877, Brooklyn Museum).

"We have few artists who are so accurate in drawing or so conscientious in the rendering of detail," an Art Journal critic wrote in 1880, "but it is to be regretted that he does not modify the occasional crudeness of the coloring of compositions which have so many excellent qualities."

Although his luminous technique led to his election to the American Water Color Society in 1872, he was primarily known for his later paintings, that were approached impressionism in feeling. Prior to his death in 1886, Silva painted 'A Summer Afternoon at Long Branch" (1885, National Gallery of Art), considered his masterpiece.

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