Francis Augustus Silva - A Life
A recent reviewer labelled Francis Augustus Silva a ‘minor league’ artist. It is true that although his works are still respected by experts, his is not a household name with the general public. Among the former he is best known for his careful attention to detail and his treatment of light; and yet, not much is known about him and his inner life. Born two years before Emerson’s American Scholar, Silva grew during one of the formative periods of a distinctive American cultural identity, and his art can be said to reflect this. In his later years, however, Silva witnessed the rise of a new generation of American painters again looking to Europe for inspiration. The years following the end of the Civil War had crushed the early optimism but Silva did not stray from the path. His art kept true to the influence of emotion and the search for harmony with Nature, not just as a manifestation of his convictions but also as an attempt to find a place of solace, and might be our best guide to learning more about him and his personal convictions. Nonetheless, a close reading of some of his life’s events and interactions allows some clarification and a better understanding of this painter.
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