Edwin Deakin was born in Sheffield, England, and at age 12 apprenticed in lacquering furniture; this would be his only formal art training. He eventually moved to San Francisco and opened a studio. Active with the San Francisco Art Association, he befriended many artists and made numerous painting trips throughout California, successfully exhibiting and selling paintings based on his extensive travel sketches.
James Peale came from one of America’s first artistic families. He served in the Continental army during the American Revolution; after the war he settled in Philadelphia, where he became an accomplished painter of portrait miniatures. When his eyesight began to fail around 1810, he began painting larger portraits, landscapes, and realistic and intimate still lifes.
British-born Samuel Marsden Brookes eventually ended up in California, where he earned a great following among collectors of the “huntsman’s still life” genre, especially among the wealthy San Francisco elite. He was a prominent figure in the city’s early art world, and his studio was a popular gathering place for artists. Although he never trained formally himself, Brookes began teaching art in his mid-20s and continued throughout his career.
William Michael Harnett began painting still lifes early in his career, initially limiting himself to the fruit and flower subjects common in 17th-century Dutch painting. In 1876, perhaps influenced by the foreign objects, art, and antiques that he saw at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition, Harnett began to paint manmade items as well, such as musical instruments, books, beer mugs, and smoking pipes.
David Ligare has been called a “California Classicist.” Influenced by the Neoclassical painters of the 17th and 18th centuries, his figures, landscapes, and still lifes take their inspiration from classical ancient themes. He counts among his models the Greek sculptor Polykleitos and the mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras, as well as the classical painter Nicolas Poussin. A resident of Salinas, California, his paintings usually include references to the California coastal landscape.
William Rickarby Miller, the son of English landscape painter Joseph Miller, immigrated to America and settled in New York City in 1844. Miller was a highly disciplined artist, working expertly in watercolor, oil, and pen and ink. He lived a relatively quiet and secluded life, keeping homes near Central Park and on Long Island. He also regularly traveled to Virginia, the Hudson River Valley, and Niagara Falls for artistic inspiration.
Born into America’s premier artistic family of the time, Raphaelle Peale is acknowledged by many to be the first painter in the Unites States to specialize in the genre of still life. He is most known for painting small, intimate pictures of fruit, dessert, and other comestible offerings on tables placed invitingly close to the viewer’s space to inspire contemplation of the senses.
John Frederick Peto often relished ambiguity, which was made more puzzling by the conventions of trompe l'oeil (or “fool the eye”) painting, a specialized form of still life popular in America at the end of the 19th century. Works in this style are designed to be elaborate visual deceptions that viewers will mistake for actual three-dimensional tableaux.
Nearly nothing is known about William Keane, whose name is attached to four paintings signed with his name. All were discovered in the Philadelphia area, and two of them are trompe l’oeil in style and depict upside-down banjos.
Whistler was an American expatriate who influenced painters working on both sides of the Atlantic. His philosophy “l’art pour l’art” [art for art’s sake] encouraged artists to pursue beauty over narrative in their work. He explored the connections between art and music, and often gave his paintings musical titles, using descriptors such as "arrangement" and "harmony." He popularized a taste for Japanese arts and influenced other painters with the atmospheric, poetic effects of his paintings.