Francis Augustus Silva

American, 1835 - 1886
Born in New York City, F.A. Silva was forbidden to paint artistically by his father so he became a successful sign painter. Unfulfilled, at the outbreak of the Civil War, he enlisted in the New York State Militia, serving until 1866. Soon after the war he listed himself as 'artist' in New York, devoting himself to marine views. Essentially self taught, early success awarded him the privilege of exhibiting with the National Academy of Design, the Brooklyn Academy of Art and the American Institute of Art.

Traveling frequently to his favored locations for subject matter, Silva's works often show both New York and New London harbors, Westchester, Narragansett Bay, and a single known western work of Lake Michigan. Later in life, he traveled to Venice, creating marine views there. Around this time he arrived at his mature style, often directly compared with the "vigor and breadth of Winslow Homer".

His luminous paintings are appreciated for their 'meticulous realism' with a tranquil atmospheric elements. In his manipulation of color while avoiding 'artificial prettiness', he instead intensified the genuine effects of nature while expressing personal emotion. Alongside foremost American seascape artists A.T. Bricher and William Trost Richards, Silva represents the pinnacle of American sea painters.
Francis A. Silva was born on October 4, 1835 in New York City and died March 31, 1886. He was one of two children born to Francis John Silva (little is know about his mother except that she was born in New York). As a schoolboy, Silva exhibited pen drawings at the American Institute. However, Silva's parents did not want him to pursue art as a career. So, he apprenticed to several trades before ending up with a sign painter. He worked in that trade until the out break of the Civil War in 1861.

Silva wouldn't begin his art career until after service in the Seventh Regiment of the New York State Militia during the Civil War. Advancing from lieutenant to captain, Silva was soon stricken with "miasmatic disease." He was dishonorably discharged for desertion when he left his regiment, but was soon reinstated.

In 1868, Silva would marry Margaret A. Watts in Keyport, New Jersey. His debut as a painter was at the National Academy of Design's annual exhibition of 1868-1869. Silva's earliest known painting, however, is Cape Ann (1870, Coe Kerr Gallery).

Silva developed a reputation as a marine painter. He became known for exaggerating and intensifying natural effects of light and air for poetic purposes. His subtle manipulation of light and atmosphere was an aesthetic device that transcended naturalism and became an almost abstract means of expressing sentiment. Silva became known as one of the leaders in the American Luminist movement.

By 1870, Silva had evolved, for a self-taught artist, a remarkably skillful technique and a repertoire of marine subject and atmospheric effects that varied little for the rest of his life. He evolved from the somewhat tentative handling of such early canvases as Sunrise: Marine View (1870, Hirschl and Adler Galleries) to the crisper forms of such later works as View Near New London, Connecticut (1877, Brooklyn Museum).

"We have few artists who are so accurate in drawing or so conscientious in the rendering of detail," an Art Journal critic wrote in 1880, "but it is to be regretted that he does not modify the occasional crudeness of the coloring of compositions which have so many excellent qualities."

Although his luminous technique led to his election to the American Water Color Society in 1872, he was primarily known for his late paintings, which were nearly impressionist in feeling. Just before he died in 1886, Silva painted A Summer Afternoon at Long Branch (1885, National Gallery of Art), considered his masterpiece.

American water Color Society

Broad Street Trust, Boston
Brooklyn Museum
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Peabody Museum of Salem, Massachusetts

Biography courtesy of Roughton Galleries,
Francis Silva was one of the nineteenth century's most revered Luminists, who imbued his Northeastern seascapes with a timeless tranquility and transcendental calm. Born in New York City, Silva began his artistic career after serving as a Captain in the Civil War. He was prized for his crisp technique and delicate handling of light and atmosphere, which earned him recognition among the second generation of Hudson River School artists. Silva was elected to the American Watercolor Society in 1872 and exhibited at the American Institute, the National Academy of Design, the Brooklyn Art Association, and the Boston Art Club. His paintings are now in such prominent collections as the Brooklyn Museum of Art, the National Gallery of Art, the New York Historical Society, the Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Collection in Madrid.

Biography courtesy of Questroyal Fine Art, LLC,
loading data Loading...
Loading... Loading...
  • This website uses cookies to track how visitors use our website to provide a better user experience. By continuing to browse this website, you are agreeing to our cookie policy
Join InCollect close

Join to view prices, save favorites, share collections and connect with others.

Forgot Password?
  • Be the first to see new listings and weekly events
    Invalid Email. Please try again.