DMA Insight

Severin Roesen's Later Works

As his style matured and his clientele grew, Severin Roesen began to depend more heavily on re-using motifs from one painting to the next. His paintings are thus instantly recognizable and often quite similar in appearance; however, like the Peales and William Michael Harnett, it is precisely that aura of familiarity that accounted for a good part of Roesen's popularity.

Perhaps the most notable aspect of Severin Roesen's Fruit Still Life with Champagne Bottle (2000.363) is how it differs from the artist's later works. As Roesen's popularity grew, so did the formulaic quality of his paintings. Later works are so heavily loaded with fruits and compotes as to defy gravity—individual pieces of fruit and clusters of grapes appear suspended in vertical space rather than grounded on the tabletop. In some cases the tabletop disappears altogether under a groaning board of vegetative matter. Although these works are exuberant, they are not as coherent or as successful structurally as his earlier works. Instead, their underlying function appears to be decorative rather than realistic.

Adapted from

Eleanor Jones Harvey, DMA unpublished material, 2000.