Oil on canvas, 20 x 30 inches /Signed lower right
Harry Herman Roseland was one America’s finest genre painters of the 19th and early 20th centuries. He was largely self-taught; however, he studied with J.B. Whitaker, Thomas Eakins, and C. Beckwith. Roseland was born in Brooklyn, New York, and unlike his peers, never traveled abroad. Early in his career he painted landscapes and still lifes; however, Roseland was interested in paintings that told a story. He is well-known for depictions of common laborers picking cotton or berries in the fields of the New York and New England areas. In post-Civil War America, his paintings focused on former slaves engaged in common, sometimes humorous activities. Some of his better known paintings portray a black fortune teller reading palms or tea leaves. This painting depicts the practice of scrying, a type of divination performed by peering into a smooth surface such as a crystal ball or a pail of water as this picture illustrates. It is interesting to note that although Roseland never visited the South, his paintings were viewed as authentic studies of Southern blacks. His intimate renderings of the subjects and their setting emphasized the racial harmony he sought to convey. He exhibited his paintings and won numerous awards. His paintings are displayed in museums in New York, West Virginia, California, and Michigan, among others.
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