Edmund Darch Lewis (American 1835-1910)
Edmund Darch Lewis (American 1835-1910)

Santiago de Cuba

Details
Edmund Darch Lewis (American 1835-1910)
Santiago de Cuba
signed, dated and titled 'Edmund D. Lewis, 1871, Santiago de Cuba' (lower left)
oil on canvas
30 x 50 in. (76.2 x 127 cm.)
Painted in 1871.
Provenance
Bruce Bower collection, Vermont.
Acquired from the above.
Anon. sale, Sotheby's, New York, 24 May 2006, lot 33 (illustrated in color).
Acquired from the above by the present owner.

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Virgilio Garza
Virgilio Garza

Lot Essay

Born in Philadelphia to a well-to-do family, the prolific nineteenth-century Hudson River School painter Edmund Darch Lewis is known for his luminous landscapes and marine views that span such quintessentially American destinations as the Catskills, the Adirondacks of New York, the Green Mountains of Vermont, the White Mountains of New Hampshire, and the shores of Maine, Rhode Island, and New Jersey.

Lewis travelled very little outside of the United States, although his sketchbooks (now in the collection of the Athenaeum of Philadelphia) reveal that he made at least one trip to the West Indies that provided much inspiration for a number of works that ably capture the subtle atmospheric effects of light and the rich flora and terrain of the tropics.[1] Indeed for many of Lewis's contemporaries, the lure of the tropics and other remote locations--from Central and South America to Mexico and the Caribbean--served as an extension to their travels to the American "frontier." And while it is unlikely that Lewis painted the present work in situ, it is evident that he did spend time in Cuba and executed a number of works inspired by his sketches. It is also clear from the angle employed and the Italianate-style villa on the right, that he took some artistic license when recreating the scene of the Bay of Santiago. Nevertheless in works such as these and his much hailed masterpiece The Queen of the Antilles[2](c. 1860), Lewis depicts the foreground with great detail, revealing identifiable tropical vegetation with seemingly scientific precision while confidently rendering the delicate and brilliant nuances of light that would come to characterize his landscapes. Indeed, the American art historian Edward Strahan writes on the profound impact of Lewis's travel to the Caribbean on his paintings in the following passage, "Mr. Lewis has often been praised by [James] Hamilton, the great landscapist, for his ability in making a painting 'look luminous.' This he does by a simple system of contrasts, without any heavy Rembrandt shadows or Carravaggio blackness. Whatever scene his pencil touches seems to be caressed by a ray of light. [It has been] sometime since he went to Cuba [yet] the magic sunshine of the tropics seems to have clung around his pencil ever since."[3]

1) See Michael W. Schantz, "Introduction," Edmund Darch Lewis, 1835-1910 (Philadelphia: Woodmere Art Museum, 1985), 7.
2) The "Queen of the Antilles" is a common nickname for the island of Cuba, also referred to as the "gem" or the "pearl" of the Antilles.
3) Edward Strahan quoted in Michael W. Schantz," Introduction," 7.
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