Born into a free African-American family in Hartford, Connecticut in 1847, Charles Ethan Porter is best known for his still lifes and is considered one of the first African-American artists to embrace the category. Porter moved to New York in 1869 and became the first Black artist to be admitted to the National Academy of Design. In 1878, the artist returned home, where his career flourished and his work was acquired by prominent figures including Mark Twain and Frederic Edwin Church. In 1881, Porter journeyed to Paris, where he spent two years studying at the French National Academy for Decorative Arts and Académie Julian. The artist returned to the United States, where he continued to make intricate and compelling still lifes, including the present work, Thistles. Porter’s work is housed in notable collections including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C..