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Severin Roesen (German/American, 1805-1882)


Also known as:  Rösen, Severin

The complex and lavish still lifes of fruit and flowers by the German-born painter Severin Roesen established the tradition for this genre of painting in nineteenth-century America. Deriving ultimately from seventeenth-century Dutch and Flemish prototypes, Roesen's fruit pieces often feature prominent wine and water goblets half full of liquid, compotes, knives and other serving vessels and utensils, and bird's nests. During his lifetime, the artist's brightly-colored and crisply-drawn cornucopias became a standard for dining-room decoration.

Interestingly, relatively little is known about Roesen's biography. He was born in Germany around 1816 and exhibited in Cologne in 1847 before immigrating to America the following year, likely to escape the turmoil of the German revolutions of 1848. Trained in Düsseldorf as a porcelain painter, Roesen carried on this European tradition in his American canvases, imbuing his still lifes with a dazzling attention to naturalistic detail and bursts of brilliant color. He worked and exhibited in New York until 1852 when he moved to Pennsylvania, settling permanently in Williamsport, a booming lumber town. There he found a strong network of patrons among the prosperous merchants and lumberman of German descent, who purchased his pictures of nature's abundance to adorn their newly built homes, taverns, restaurants, and hotels. A hotelier and brewer named Jacob Flock owned more than fifty painting by Roesen, which were presumably traded for lodging and beer, the artist's favorite beverage.

Roesen's works are in the permanent holdings of many major museum collections of American art including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Delaware Art Museum, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, the Currier Museum of Art, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, and the White House in Washington, D.C.

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