American School Still Life; by Andrew J. H. Way, 1871
Way, Andrew John Henry (Maryland, 1826-1888); oil on canvas; signed lower left and dated 1871; un-lined canvas on original stretchers; stenciled on reverse: “Kellinger & CO. ARTIST Materials &c 63 Lexington St. BALTIMORE”; in original frame; a loan label affixed to the back of the stretchers reads: “Owner, Albert Weil; Artist, A. J. H. Way; Title, Oysters and Ale; Insur….75–“; condition: a small puncture at the juncture of the oyster shells has been professionally repaired and two small areas of paint loss in the central upper background have been in-painted; the surface has been cleaned and re-varnished, the canvas has been tightened, and the frame’s gilding was cleaned of later bronze paint and restored; dimensions: image 11 1/2″ x 17 1/2″, frame 19 1/2″ x 25 1/2”
While obviously representative of the Chesapeake’s bounty, countless Dutch School examples portrayed the same subject matter for centuries. Strikingly similar in format to Way’s “Still Life: Oysters on the Half Shell, 1863”, at the Maryland Historical Society, this painting manifests the artist’s departure from the darker, more somber European style he employed upon his return from France and Italy in 1854¹, to the brighter, more colorful still life paintings local patrons preferred in exemplifying the spirit of newfound prosperity and abundance associated with Post-Civil War America². As noted by the Johnson Collection’s description of Way at http://thejohnsoncollection.org/andrew-way/, this lighter, increased saturation of hue, in concert with a softening of line, are recollective of works by the Peale Family earlier in the Century, examples with which Way was undoubtedly familiar. Albert Weil, the painting’s initial owner, was a member of the Charcoal Club of Baltimore, which Way himself helped found in 1883. Started as the Sketch Club by a group of male artists in Baltimore who “desired to draw and paint from life” (i.e. nude models), the Charcoal Club held exhibitions of local and national artists and its annual juried exhibition of contemporary American art was the high point of Baltimore’s brief art season. The Club was also known for its wild annual “Bal des Arts”³.
¹350 Years of Art and Architecture in Maryland, U of M Art Gallery, 1984 ²Audubon to Warhol: The Art of American Still Life, The Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2015 ³Wikipedia, 2016