River Scene, Edward Mitchell Bannister

Edward Mitchell Bannister (born Canada, active United States, 1828–1901) 

River Scene, 1883 

Oil on canvas 

Gift of Mr. George P. Shea, Jr., 1986 (5605.1), with conservation treatment supported by Patsi and Stephen McClaran 

Among the leading artists of Providence, Rhode Island, during the 1870s and 1880s, African-American painter Edward Mitchell Bannister is recognized for his pastoral landscapes influenced by the rustic subjects and poetic pictorialism of the 19th-century French Barbizon painters. Cows in fields, stands of ancient trees, and quiet river scenes such as this one, evocatively created with somber tones and loose brushwork, characterize much of his work. Bannister's determination to become an artist was reportedly intensified by a racially biased article in the New York Herald in 1867 that stated, "The Negro seems to have an appreciation for art while being manifestly unable to produce it." Although he seems to have been largely self-taught, his accomplishments as an artist were such that he received a first-prize bronze medal for a painting exhibited at the 1876 Centennial International Exposition in Philadelphia, and he was on the board of directors for the Rhode Island School of Design.