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    Xanthus Smith (American, 1839-1929)

    Palmettos at Port Royal
    Oil on canvas
    Signed lower right Xanthus Smith, 1866
    Inscribed on reverse Palmettos at the Mouth of Statitor Creek, Port Royal, S.C., Painted by Xanthus Smith 1866

    Xanthus Smith, the most prolific painter of Civil War maritime scenes, was born into a family of artists in Philadelphia. He was educated at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and at the Royal Academy in London. But it was his first-hand experience in the Civil War as he served on the USS Wabash that he drew upon to complete his masterpieces of Civil War.

    In Palmettos at Port Royal, Smith gives an artistically superb account of South Carolina as he saw it when he served onboard the Wabash at that location from 1862-1863. Smith would complete sketches during the war, sometimes taking a launch to the shore to complete pictures from a different perspective such as this piece. In a successful effort to depict a more calm scene with ships in the distance and smaller craft in the foreground, this oil on canvas was done in 1866 just after the war. Smith was a master at using the small canvas to capture detail, as he put it, "small, compact and neat," in this case incorporating the South Carolina palmetto tree prominently in the composition.

    Xanthus Smith continued to produce quality work for public and private commissions including portraiture work. But it is Civil War maritime work with its painstakingly minute brushwork that he is most well known. Many credit his success to his upbringing by Russell and Mary Smith, both accomplished artists, who at age 12 took him on a European tour where he learned much from studying great art and from his sea voyage. He developed a love for the sea and at the outbreak of the Civil War enlisted as a ship's clerk where he became a chronicler of sea battles and scenes, drawing on his own experiences and from photographs. By the time of the 1876 Centennial Exhibition he was regarded as the premier painter of Civil War scenes.

    The following provenance information was not included in the printed catalogue. Heritage regrets any confusion this may have caused.

    From a private collection other than the Crow Art Partnership

    Condition Report*: Condition report available upon request.
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    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    October, 2007
    13th Saturday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 1
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 2,644

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