Francis A. Silva
View on the Hudson River, 1876
Oil on canvas, 14 x 12 inches
Private Collection

Francis A. Silva (1835-1886): In His Own Light

March 31 – May 31, 2002

Exhibition opens April 23rd, 2002 with a benefit for the Peabody Essex Museum
Berry-Hill Galleries has long been interested in the art of Francis A. Silva (1835-1886) and is pleased to present the first retrospective exhibition of this major American Luminist. Not only is this the first exhibition devoted to Silva but also the first in-depth biographical study and catalogue of known works. Francis A. Silva, In His Own Light is accompanied by a fully illustrated scholarly publication compiled by Mark D. Mitchell with an introduction by John Wilmerding, Sarofim Professor of American Art, Princeton University. The opening is a benefit for the Peabody Essex Museum, home of an important collection of works by Silva.

Luminism as a style of later 19th Century landscape painting, first identified by John Baur and later by Barbara Novak and John Wilmerding (who curated the landmark exhibition American Light at the National Gallery), is devoted to light and water. Francis A. Silva followed and continued the tradition established notably by Fitz Hugh Lane, Martin J. Heade, John F. Kensett and Sanford Gifford.

This exhibition consists of approximately 50 works, some of which are well known examples on loan from museums, and offers newly-discovered treasures that have been lost to sight for decades. Silva is particularly admired for his Hudson River and New England Coastal scenes that combine glowing, diffuse light and subtle color harmonies, such as Two Unidentified Coasting Vessels, circa 1870, from the Peabody Essex Museum, On the Hudson River, Nyack circa 1874 (Private Collection) and Schooner Passing Castle Island, Boston Harbor, 1874, from The Bostonian Society. Not only the style, but also the subject, place these paintings firmly in the tradition exemplified by the work of the preeminent Gloucester native Fitz Hugh Lane. The Schooner "Progress" Wrecked at Coney Island, July 4, 1874, 1875, from the Manoogian Collection, illustrates another phase in Silva's development, a shift from the purely geographic to the more narrative.