This spring Roger King Fine Art in Newport, Rhode Island, will exhibit newly-acquired works by Providence artists Edward M. Bannister (1828-1901) and Frederick S. Batcheller (1837-1889). From entirely different backgrounds, the two artists were friends and colleagues who shared studio quarters, exhibited together, and helped found one of the country’s oldest art clubs. Bannister, a self-taught African-American artist who eventually won national recognition at the 1876 Centennial Exposition, is best known for his Barbizon-inspired landscapes. Frederick Batcheller's still-life paintings are considered some of the finest produced by the famous painters of the Providence-Fall River school. Despite dramatically different approaches to painting, their dedication to art and appreciation of the natural world drew these two artists to work in close proximity.
Mr. Bannister Meets Mr. Batcheller features recently rediscovered works by both artists. A group of works on paper by Bannister includes figure studies and landscape sketches. Bannister was profoundly affected by the paintings of the Barbizon school, whose influence is evident in his own works, and his paintings are frequently suffused with a poetic quality that reveals his love of nature and deep spirituality. The sketches, which appear to be studies for the artist's future paintings, will delight admirers of Bannister's work. The watercolors show the artist's ability to achieve ethereal and dreamy effects with an ease and freshness that contrasts with the Tonalist influence and thick brushwork often found in his oil paintings. Several sketches bear the artist's notations concerning color choice and location, making this group especially meaningful to Bannister collectors and scholars.
Batcheller, the son of a Providence highway commissioner, was an accomplished violinist and pianist before turning to art as a career. To the disappointment of his family, he became an apprentice with the Tingley Brothers, well-known Providence marble-carvers. After an initial foray into sculpting, Batcheller settled on painting as a career. He was a member of the Group of 1855, one of the earliest groups organized to promote the study and appreciation of art. Batcheller's floral still lifes are vibrantly-colored and detailed, and his fruit still lifes depict forms in a rounded, sculptural quality. Despite his choice of traditional subject matter, Batcheller was a complex figure. His friend and colleague, painter George Whitaker, referred to him as "the Romantic" because of Batcheller's frequent spells of melancholy, when the artist locked himself inside his studio to spend hours playing sad music on his violin. The show includes a group of paintings previously in the private collection of the descendants of the Providence family that purchased them over one hundred years ago.
'Mr. Bannister Meets Mr. Batcheller' will run from April 22 through June 18 at Roger King Fine Art, 21 Bowen’s Wharf, Newport, Rhode Island. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. For more information, contact the gallery at (401) 847-4359 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. The gallery's website is www.rkingfinearts.com.