An American ‘Theorem’ painting of the first half of the 19th century. This exceptional example of its genre is one of the scarce ones done on paper and is done in guache with graphite detail and background toning.
Theorem painting is the technique of using layered stencils to create images which could be brought to life through the application of paint, graphite, and/or ink in any manner the artist desired. Usually the paintings were done on velvet or silk and rarely, as in this case, on paper. Early in the American Federal period, around 1800, there was enough prosperity growing in the nation to engender a desire for culture and resultant appreciation of the arts. Young women were encouraged to be creative and various academies came into being to instruct them in painting, writing, social graces, etc. Theorem painting was a medium wherin an artist might create an attractive image ranging from figures to particular scenes, to still life subjects without many years of training. Paintings created in this genre are often very attractive and charming. Fashions change however, and theorem paintings began to go out of style in the 1840s. Theorem paintings have rightly achieved considerable collector interest in the field of Americana.
This good size Theorem still life is exemplary in terms of composition, variety of subject, and exceptional detail – please see our detail pictures. This work’s execution displays the work of a master in the medium. The artist may well have chosen to do this work on paper in order to display the maximum color richness, delicacy, and detail which could be achieved in the medium. This painting is most likely the work of a truly gifted student, or of a highly accomplished teacher demonstrating what was possible to achieve. We have not found an artist signature on this work.
This beautiful still life theorem painting is in very fine original untouched condition. The main image is excellent with lovely strong color. The graphite background shows some flaking near the frame edges. We obtained this piece in its period frame, in Southern New England some twenty years ago and are now downsizing our personal collection.
Dimensions: Frame: 25″ x 22 1/2″, image 17″ x 15″