DescriptionThe Hon. Paul H. Buchanan, Jr. Collection
GEORGE COCHRAN LAMBDIN (American, 1830-1896)
Still Life with Roses and Fuchsia, 1873
Oil on canvas
13-1/2 x 9-1/2 inches (34.3 x 24.1 cm)
Signed and dated lower right: Geo. C. Lambdin 1873
Berry-Hill Galleries, New York (label verso);
Purchased from Kenneth Lux, New York, 1989 (label verso).
George Cochran Lambdin had two quite distinct careers as a painter. He worked initially as an anecdotal genre painter, and achieved considerable recognition around the time of the Civil War for his sentimental scenes of volunteers parting from their sweethearts. His success stemmed in large degree from his solid training in figure drawing and portraiture, honed under the guidance of his father, James Reid Lambdin, a noted Pittsburgh portrait painter, and subsequently in the academies of Munich and Paris. He was admitted to the august National Academy of Design in New York as a full Academician in 1868, and rented a studio in the famous Tenth Street Studio Building for the next two years before returning to Europe.
Upon his return to the United States in 1870, Lambdin left New York to settle in the Germantown section of Philadelphia, where he became a skillful gardener and devoted himself to painting and growing roses for the rest of his life. What caused the artistic shift is not entirely clear, but some influence from the American Pre-Raphaelite painter, William Trost Richards, may have been a catalyst, at least in part. Richards had powerfully absorbed the influence of John Ruskin's admonishment to show "truth to nature" through careful and meticulous study of plant life and landscape during the late 1850s, and had reportedly become a teacher of Lambdin's in 1863.
In any event, while English and/or American Pre-Raphaelitism may have urged George Lambdin to paint flowers, these influences had little impact on his technique. Rather than painting in a highly linear manner with small descriptive strokes, George Lambdin rendered his roses, in particular, more lushly and broadly hoping to capture the soft, pulpy texture of the petals. To heighten the sculptural quality of the rose, which he admired more than any other flower, Lambdin departed from the Ruskinian ideal of showing the blossoms in their natural contexts and frequently placed them, instead, against indefinite dark backgrounds, as seen in the present work. The effect he achieved was much more dramatic and decorative, and also one he employed to great commercial advantage in his floral chromolithographs, which spread his fame and popularity widely.
Lambdin was fortunate in finding patrons for both of his specialties, and his works were avidly collected by some of the most astute connoisseurs of the day: George Whitney, John Taylor Johnston, and Samuel P. Avery. The bouquet by Lambdin in the Buchanan collection is an early work from the artist's "second" career, produced shortly after his move to Germantown. Like Lambdin, Paul Buchanan's favorite flower was the rose. He grew them in his extensive garden in Indianapolis.
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