From Our Dealers

Famed Artist Harry Roseland Comes Back to Life at Roseland Galleries

Harry Roseland was born in Brooklyn, New York where he would train and develop as an artist for the majority of his life.  Roseland began his artistic career under the guidance of portraitist John Bernard Whittaker at the Adelphia Art Academy before furthering his studies with J. Carroll Beckwith in New York City.  Perhaps inspired by Beckwith’s breadth of subject matter – the artist was noted for his landscapes, genre paintings, and portraits – Roseland did not limit himself to one type of painting, but instead, offered seascapes, paintings of American life, and portraits to the public throughout his career.

Although Roseland experimented with many genres, his most widely-known compositions were those that focused on the lives of black Americans, most of which were set in the South.  Interestingly, the artist likely never traveled to this region of the country, and so relied upon New England conceptions and stereotypes of Southern blacks for his genre scenes.  One figure often featured by Roseland was that of the exotic fortune-teller paired with a fair-skinned bourgeois woman.  Like many works of the time, these paintings were popular enough to be etched and distributed in print form to a broader audience; some, such as Reading Her Fortune, were even published in Harper’s Weekly.

Roseland’s genre scenes form an important chapter of the American Experience by allowing present-day viewers to understand widespread cultural beliefs present in post-Civil War America.  The artist’s works were exhibited by a number of associations including the National Academy of Design, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and the Society of Independent Artists.  Roseland was also honored as a member of the Salmagundi Club and won several awards such as the gold medal at exhibitions such as the Brooklyn Art Club (1888), in Boston (1904), and at the 1907 exhibition for the American Art Society.  Today, his work is featured in the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Science, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Heckscher Museum.

There is no racism in any of Roseland’s portrayals of the challenges commonly faced by all humanity. There is no bias or favor with regards to who the victors are and who suffers the greatest defeat. There is only humanity, portrayed in its dusty, hard-earned achievements, and arduous failures and loss. This is humanity portrayed at its best; both victorious and defeated, winning and losing, gain and loss. Neither option promising happiness and contentment. Sitting at the kitchen table, these true heroes know the joy of battles won, and the sorrow of battles lost. They will endure; they will survive. Life will not defeat them. They have come too far to turn back now. Their lives no longer consist in what they have around them, but rather in what they know about themselves within. They know they’re strong, they know they’re tough, they know they’re unyielding and brave. The strength built through the fervent tenacity of survival makes them heroes to us all. They have won. They know they are “somebody” and no one can take that away. Their confidence is built with their own hands, not as a result of some beneficent overlord. The tablecloth may be ragged, the walls dilapidated and broken, but they understand the substance of life is not found in the accumulation of possessions. They have each other to rely upon, and when that dependence no longer remains, their resolute self-reliance will endure. Of this one thing they are certain: They’ll get by. Art by Harry Roseland captivates life experiences at their most real moments.

Roseland Galleries is the exclusive producer and distributor of the Harry Roseland Collection in the United States.

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