Francis A. Silva: In His Own Light
Author: Mark D. Mitchell
Introduction by: John Wilmerding
“Francis A. Silva was no Martin Johnson Heade or Fitz Hugh Lane, and this exhibition, his first retrospective, won't propel him into the front ranks of 19th-century American landscape painters. But the show, well produced by the art historian Mark D. Mitchell, makes a worthy case for a capable minor-league Luminist. Silva, a New Yorker born in 1835, served as a captain in the Civil War before embarking on his artistic career, which ended with his death from pneumonia in 1886. It is interesting to contemplate his paintings against the background of war and the accelerated postwar industrialization. Silva's touching scenes of sailboats floating on peaceful New England waters or the Hudson River, irradiated by the ruddy light of rising or setting suns and populated by lonesome, contemplative figures, are less realistic depictions of modern life than consoling fantasies of divinely sponsored retreat and convalescence. Images of rougher seas or, in one of the most compelling pictures, a thunderstorm breaking over the Hudson near Nyack, only add other dimensions to a hopeful if bittersweet vision of natural beneficence. As a technician, Silva was good at light, space and natural textures but not much of a colorist and not very daring with scale or composition. The freshest pictures in the show are small, highly finished watercolors in which he focused less on emotional atmosphere and more on the particularities of the real world. They have a clarity of color and observation that makes the oil paintings seem comparatively generic.”
Ken Johnson as published in The New York Times June 7th, 2002
The beautiful art of Francis A. Silva (1835-1886) is finally recognized through this publication that accompanied exhibition held at Berry-Hill Galleries, New York in 2002.
Paperback, 146 pages