In the 1880s, San Francisco attracted some of the most prominent regional and nationally recognized artists of the day, including William Keith, Thomas Hill, Albert Bierstadt, and George Inness, among many others. The city's California School of Design similarly attracted some of the most notable artists and instructors who would have a profound impact on Guy Rose's early career, including most significantly Soren Emil Carlsen, who became director of the school in 1887. "[Carlsen] brought a distinct sense of modernity to his still-life painting, the genre for which he remains best known...[he] applied pigment broadly and in dramatic, baroque contrasts of light and dark. Carlsen was sensitive to lost edges in pictorial space, where, for example, the silvery scales of fish give way to an enveloping dark, empty background...In certain discreet passages, the sense of illusion in a painting by Carlsen is balanced with the concrete, sensual presence of pigment. His confident application of thick, dark paint and brilliant highlights betrays a debt to Velázquez and certain of the Dutch masters. His fluid articulation of paint not only impressed Guy Rose but served as a precedent for the considerably looser surfaces Guy would later come to understand and master." (W. South, Guy Rose: American Impressionist, San Francisco, California, 1995, p. 14)
Rose's Still Life with Onions, Peppers and Basket is deeply indebted to the teachings of Emil Carlsen and the broader influence of one of the most influential instructors of the day, William Merritt Chase. Rose's exquisite mastery of detail and texture is achieved through a bold composition dramatically juxtaposing stark light against a cavernous space of unknown shadow and depth. The use of a subtle diagonal line in the foreground to indicate the edge of a table serves to enhance a more dynamic picture plane and invite the viewer into what had traditionally been a more static genre. Having remained in the artist's family until the present time, Still Life with Onions, Peppers and Basket is a rare and exceptional early example from the most renowned California Impressionist.
This painting will be included in the catalogue raisonné on the artist being compiled by Roy Rose and the Irvine Museum.