(American, 1847 - 1915)
At the Naturalist’s
Oil on canvas, 24 x 43 inches
Signed and dated at lower left: “Milne Ramsey/ Paris 3 76”
Exhibited: Paris Salon, 1876, as Chez un naturaliste. “First Annual Exhibition”, Society of American Artists, New York, 1878, as “Bird Fanciers”, “50th Annual Exhibition,” Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 1879, no. 37, as “With a Naturalist.”
Milne Ramsey was born in Philadelphia. After serving in the Pennsylvania Militia during the Civil War he entered the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia around 1863 and opened a studio there in 1867. Ramsey went to Paris in 1868 and worked in the atelier of the noted portraitist L?on Bonnat from around 1871 to 1876. In Paris Ramsey exhibited at the Salon and the Societe des Artistes Francais. In 1877 he became one of the founders of the Society of American Artists, a group that broke away from the conservative National Academy of Design. Ramsey returned to Philadelphia in 1882 and resumed exhibiting at the Academy until 1903. Although Milne Ramsey painted landscapes and figure compositions, he was best known for his highly realistic still life subjects and trompe l’oeil compositions. He briefly opened a studio in New York, and summered at his seaside home in Atlantic City. Ramsey returned to Philadelphia in 1900 and died there fifteen years later.
Considered lost since its last appearance in a Parke-Bernet auction catalogue in 1943, At the Naturalist’s is an historical costume piece set in seventeenth-century Holland. Such compositions were popular among Parisian academic painters and appealed to wealthy American patrons following the Civil War. The artist’s biographer Willam Gerdts has noted how the “forms are solidly but minutely drawn, great attention is paid not only to detail but to varying poses, ages and anatomy, and all the figures exist in a carefully defined, geometrically squared off space.” Ramsey’s skill in depicting the many objects in this early academic painting presages his future as a still-life specialist.
About the Artist
(American, 1847 - 1915)
Milne Ramsey was born in Philadelphia to a family of Scottish descent. He entered the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1863 and exhibited there from 1865 to 1867; he also studied with Léon Bonnat (1833–1922) in Paris for five years beginning in 1867. In all Ramsey spent approximately ten years in Europe, where he painted many landscapes and some narrative scenes of Brittany and Normandy. By 1882 Ramsey was sharing a studio with Edward Moran (1829–1901) at 705 Walnut Street in Philadelphia. In that same year he was part of a major show at the Pennsylvania Academy that included ninety two paintings, mainly landscapes of Brittany. He also exhibited regularly at the National Academy of Design in New York. Ramsey maintained studios in New York and Atlantic City for a number of years but in 1900 returned permanently to Philadelphia, where his studio was in the Haseltine Building at 1418 Chestnut Street. Ramsey specialized in still lifes of fruit, flowers, and game in a style inspired by eighteenth century French still lifes, especially those of Jean Baptiste Siméon Chardin (1699–1779). Charles Haseltine, a contemporary Philadelphia art dealer, sold Ramsey’s works for high prices to major local collectors. Reference: William H. Gerdts, Milne Ramsey (1846–1915): Still Lifes and Landscape Paintings [exh. cat., Chapellier Galleries] (New York, 1974).