Levi Wells Prentice

(1851-1935)

Levi Wells Prentice first emerges as a still life painter in 1890, the year of his first dated work in that genre. He had already been painting for twenty years, first in Upstate New York and then in Brooklyn, where he had moved by 1883, but he had confined himself over that period almost exclusively to landscapes, particularly of the Adirondack region.

When Prentice did begin to paint still lifes, he did so with enormous confidence. His crisp definition of forms, highly polished surfaces and brilliant color are unmistakable signatures, as are the humble pails and baskets that accompany his fruit in both indoor and outdoor settings.

Where or under what circumstances Prentice developed this distinctive style is a matter of some conjecture. His earlier landscapes already possess many of the characteristics of linearity and intense, almost naive attention to surface qualities that appear in his fruit pieces. Yet among the other Brooklyn still life painters who were his contemporaries were other "hard-edge" illusionists, including William Mason Brown and Joseph Decker, whose works Prentice would certainly have known through their exhibition at the Brooklyn Art Association.