Signed at and dated lower right: "J.F.Francis./Pt. 1850"
John F. Francis was born in Philadelphia to French‑born parents. Little is known of his early training and career, but by the 1830s he was an itinerant portraitist, a choice that may have been influenced by Philadelphia’s leading portrait painters of the day, Thomas Sully (1783–1872) and John Neagle (1796–1865). By about 1832, Francis was working as itinerant artist, traveling especially in eastern and central Pennsylvania but also into Delaware, Ohio, and even as far south as Tennessee in search of portrait commissions. Following the death of his wife in 1872, Francis made a final move to Jeffersonville, Pennsylvania, where he lived until his death. In addition to portraits, he painted meticulously detailed “luncheon piece” still lifes, animal pictures, and signs. Francis made his exhibition debut in 1840, when he showed seven portraits at the annual of the Artists Fund Society in Philadelphia. Portraiture, however, was not to be his lifelong pursuit. In the late 1840s he began concentrating on still life, a genre that dominated his oeuvre for the rest of his life. Over the next two decades he exhibited still lifes in Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, Louisville, and St. Louis. He exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Philadelphia Art Union, and the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, and sold some of his fruit pieces through the American Art Union.
Like his fellow Philadelphian Raphaelle Peale, whose work most likely exerted a good deal of influence on Francis, he preferred painting edibles; in fact, only two floral still lifes and no paintings of dead game by him are known. In keeping with the tradition of the genre, Francis almost always arranged his objects on a covered table top that he placed close and parallel, or nearly so, to the picture plane. With a few major exceptions, the backgrounds of his pictures are usually bare and indistinct. The lighting is soft but clear and most often comes from the left.
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