Branch of Oranges (Primary Title)
Celebrated at the end of his life as an American “Old Master,” La Farge rose to high artistic ranks in the second half of the century as an innovative watercolorist, muralist, and stained-glass designer (he developed the process for making opalescent glass, now popularly associated with his rival Tiffany). In his rare ventures into oil painting, he often turned to still life; the evocative Branch of Oranges was made very early in his career.
Pictured in raking light, the ripe Seville oranges glow against a stucco wall. Their soft contours, rich impasto, and deep shadows are directly at odds with the crisp presentation of contemporary American still-life paintings, like the Severin Roesen hanging in the adjoining gallery. These delicate effects suggest La Farge’s recent study under Thomas Couture in Paris and William Morris Hunter in Newport, Rhode Island. The latter introduced new painterly approached learned from Barbizon artists in France. Some scholars see the vertical format as evidence of La Farge’s budding enthusiasm for Japanese composition, prompted by exposure to newly available prints.
"Tercentenary Exhibition, 1936" Art Association of Newport, Newport, RI (25 July - 16 August 1936): cat. no. 71.
Mary Lublin, 19th and 20th Century Paintings (New York: Jordan-Volpe Galllery, 1989): pp.6-7
Kathleen A. Foster, "The Still Life Painting of John La Farge," American Art Journal, vol. XI, no. 3 (July, 1979): p. 23, ill. 26.
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