John F. Francis


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Painter. A leading mid-nineteenth-century still life specialist, he favored sumptuous arrangements of food and tableware chosen to suggest a luncheon or dessert. Often these are large and complex compositions, including fruits, nuts, cheeses, and baked goods in combination with wine bottles, serving dishes, pitchers, and crystal stemware. Backgrounds sometimes open out into landscape. Francis also painted more concentrated and intimate groupings of fruit, frequently spilling from baskets. He clearly reveled in particularity, treating every item with full attention to its unique visual and textural qualities. Yet stable compositions, harmonious colors, and painterly brushwork unify his visions of abundance and gastronomic pleasure. Born in Philadelphia, he began as a portrait painter there and in the nearby countryside, working in a romantic style related to Thomas Sully's, before turning almost exclusively to still life around 1850. Building on the achievements of still life painters in Charles Willson Peale's family, he addressed his subjects with breadth and ambition seldom rivaled in his day. Although he maintained ties with Philadelphia throughout his career, Francis lived in a number of localities in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Kentucky. Eventually he settled not far from Philadelphia, in Jeffersonville, where he lived for about two decades before his death.

Subjects: Art.

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