American Masterpieces from Dryads Green Gallery
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Artist: Levi Wells Prentice  
Artist Dates: 1851 - 1935    
Signature:
Lower Right
Title: Adirondack Farms
Painting Date: ca. 1885      
Medium: Oil on Canvas
Provenance: Private Coltn.
Condition:
Excellent           
Size Unframed: 24 x 20   
Frame: Antique Repro.  
Frame Size: 34 x 30
Artist High Price: $135,000     
Offered At: CALL
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Curator's Comments: Noted American art scholar Bill Gerdts calls what Levi Wells Prentice did
best 'illiusionism.' Gerdts should know because his personal collection emphasizes simple American
still-life renditions of fruit and vegetables including a work by Prentice. Others refer to it as a proto
trompe l'oeil--the French art term for 'fools the eye'--or call it simply 'primitive.' But note that the
only scholarly study of Prentice is
Nature Staged by Barbara L. Jones, whose use of the term 'staged' is
apt indeed. We call his unique style simply 'Landscape as Still Life'--and as landscape collectors we
long wanted to own it. We've been told by one Antiques Roadshow curator that you buy Prentice for his
still life's only--'especially his apples.' But there is just nothing like his frozen  portraits of the
Adirondacks that he wandered through in his youth--teaching himself how to paint while reading
Ruskin on Renaissance Art and Modern Painters. It is the perfectly etched quality of his greenery--the
absolute stillness--the silent moment--all of which show art's power to stop time--that we wanted. And
do note that Well's landscapes are selling for as much as his fruit-filled still life work.
We Wanted Landscape Done as Still-Life and Found an American Masterpiece
                                     by Levi Wells Prentice
Adirondack Lake Lila brought $34,000 in 2013
These Apples brought $44,000 at Christie's in 2013
Prentice was born in Lewis County, New York in 1851 and raised on a small farm in the Adirondack
Mountains. He painted landscapes as far afield as Buffalo and Syracuse, where he established his first
studio. A few early portraits have survived, which suggest Prentice may have seen work by Field. He  
married an English woman, Emma Roseloe Sparks, in Buffalo, New York in 1882 and in 1883, he
moved to Brooklyn, New York, where he worked as a carpenter and art teacher. Newman Galleries
employed Prentice as a framemaker. The couple had two children, Leigh (born 22 March 1887) and
Imogene (born 17 September 1889). He was a member of the Brooklyn Art Association and frequently
exhibited as such. This was the period of his masterpiece still-life studies of fruit on the table, in hats,
or baskets abundantly spilling by the bushel--apples, strawberries, peaches, plums, raspberries,
cherries, muskmelons, pears, currants, pineapples, gooseberries, grapes and bananas usually piled
high in kitchens or in natural settings. And the contrast between the basket work and the actual fruit
has caused some to see Wells distinguishing the works of man and nature. But we think Wells is
telling us about abundance. That is the dominant theme--of his settings be they tabletops full of one
cake after another or the baskets and hats that are always overflowing. Nature is generous and its
fecundity easily overcomes time as the artist struggles to survive mutability much in the way of
Keats's Odes. By illusionism, Gerdts meant that Prentice's still-life fruits are in fact good enough to
eat--their chiaroscuro rendition and waxy polished surfaces are intended to make the viewer say grace
for nature's gifts. Prentice subsequently left Brooklyn and moved variously from 1903-07 before
settling in the Germantown district of Philadelphia, where he died in 1935. Yale owns the wonderful
'Green Parrot' by Prentice, and his work is in the Montclair Museum, the Hudson Museum and the
Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and many other noted collections. The Adirondack Museum organized
a retrospective not long after Prentice's death.
The Artist in his Brooklyn Stud
Perfectly Framed for Exhibition
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