Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice


    Charles Ethan Porter (American, 1847-1923)
    Floral Still Life
    Oil on canvas
    24 x 20 inches (61.0 x 50.8 cm)
    Signed lower right: C.E. Porter

    Property of a Distinguished New York Collector

    Richard Smith, Rhode Island;
    Acquired by the present owner from the above.

    Mason Fine Art, Atlanta, Georgia.

    The son of a poor and illiterate laborer, Charles Ethan Porter became one of the first, if not the first, African-American artists to study at the National Academy of Design in New York. Porter's still life paintings, as evidenced by Floral Still Life and Still Life with Roses, embrace a soft, lush quality that differentiates them from many other American still life paintings of the nineteenth century, which are often characterized by a virtuosic but harder-edged technique. Porter's work embodies a soft focus while capturing a naturalistic immediacy, qualities apparent also in his landscapes.

    Porter's work was enthusiastically received in the press and by his colleagues and students. He was a much-admired teacher to aspiring artists, and counted among his friends and patrons artist Frederic Edwin Church and writer Mark Twain. Thanks to the sponsorship of Mark Twain, Porter was able to travel to Paris in 1881-84, where he came under a variety of influences and was able to reach the heights of his ability. With the support of his friends and patrons, the artist went on to become a charter member of the Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts, exhibiting at the National Academy of Design, the American Society of Painters in Watercolor, and the Hartford Decorative Art Society.

    Although Porter's personal life is rather obscure and undocumented, it is evident that he encountered racism regularly, and with increasing intensity. Porter was acclaimed by the press and was awarded important prizes, but after settling in Hartford, Connecticut, his race began to result in social isolation.

    A Bavarian artist who shared his studio, Gustave Hoffman, had to sell Porters paintings door to door because no one would buy the work of a Black man. It is said that a significant part of his output in these years still hang unrecognized on the walls of Hartford homes. By the time of his death in 1923, racism had cast him into complete obscurity, and it was only very recently that he is once again recognized as one of the country's outstanding late nineteenth-century artists.

    Condition Report*: Original canvas. One, 1 1/2 inch wax lined patch in the lower right quadrant, inpaint visible in natural light; Faint stretcher bar lines visible; light surface dust; The varnish makes it difficult to determine other possible areas of inpaint under UV light.
    Framed Dimensions 31 X 27 Inches
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. Heritage does not guarantee the condition of frames and shall not be liable for any damage/scratches to frames, glass/acrylic coverings, original boxes, display accessories, or art that has slipped in frames. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    December, 2020
    3rd Thursday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 5
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 498

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    25% on the first $300,000 (minimum $49), plus 20% of any amount between $300,000 and $3,000,000, plus 12.5% of any amount over $3,000,000 per lot.

    Sold for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)
    Track Item

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Only 16 days left to consign to the 2021 April 19 Design Signature Auction - Dallas!

    Learn about consigning with us

    In my estimation Taylor exemplified professionalism and in that respect clearly added value to Heritage Auctions as their representative.
    Robert B.,
    Philadelphia, PA
    View More Testimonials receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source:

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search