Edward Mitchell Bannister (1828 - 1901)
Moonlight Marine (Rhode Island), 1885
Oil on canvas
22 x 30 inches
Signed and dated at lower left: E. M. Bannister ‘85
Period gilded oak frame
Spanierman Gallery, LLC, New York, American Marine Paintings 1839-1930, October 4 – December 1, 2007
Edward M. Bannister was one of the first black artists to achieve national recognition in the United States. Born in Canada in 1828, Bannister moved to Boston in 1848 after working on ships along the eastern seaboard. While he had little formal training, Bannister took classes at the Lowell Institute, and refined his skills with a rigorous program of private study. He painted in the Barbizon mode, with a tonal palette and richly varied paint surface.
In 1870, Bannister moved to Providence, Rhode Island, where he established a studio and developed a following with local collectors. Bannister was the only New England artist to win a bronze medal at the 1876 World Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. The award also marked the first time a black artist was given a medal in a national arts exhibition.
The present work, Moonlight Marine, is a prime painting by the artist in his mature style. Central to the composition is a full moon glowing behind a scrim of clouds, with a single masted ship on the far horizon. Powerful waves crash against rocks in the foreground. Bannister infused the entire scene with a sense of drama from the sheer power of nature.