Edward Mitchell Bannister (American, 1828-1901)
Unsigned, estate stamped on the reverse, incised "G.A. Foster"
beneath multiple estate stamps on the reverse.
Oil on artist board, 18 3/16 x 12 1/8 in. (46.1 x 31.0 cm), framed.
Condition: Wear to edges of artist board, tack hole in each upper corner, minor paint losses along left edge at center, fine craquelure.
N.B. Anne Louise Avery, who is preparing the catalogue raisonné of Edward Mitchell Bannister's paintings and drawings, has written an authentication analysis of Forest Interior. The following information is drawn from her report.
The forest is a constant in E. M. Bannister's artistic imagination. The artist was endlessly and passionately inspired by the trees and deep ancient woods of the East Coast. Tree-shaded paths, winding through, entering, or skirting the forest interior, are familiar motifs in Bannister's work. Often, the pathways are punctuated by bucolic figures, such as a woodcutter or cow herder. Others suggest man's presence more subtly through built structures such as fences. However, some, such as this forest scene, suggest a human presence only by a man-made path. The composition of Forest Interior, with the strong vertical structure of the dominant oak tree and the curving path drawing the eye into the spatial recesses of the painting, represents a framework typical of Bannister. The small opening of pale blue sky and white clouds, letting light and energy into the work, is very idiosyncratic, both compositionally and symbolically, as is the gently rising bank in the lower right foreground. The distinctive treatment of the grasses is a hallmark of Bannister's wooded landscapes, and the loose, soft brushwork describing the tree can also be positively matched with a number of Bannister's works. The execution of the clouds, in particular, is closely comparable with finished oil works from the 1880s and 1890s, while the muted Tonalist palette is typical of Bannister's color choices in his mature years as an artist.
This oil sketch was made on a 1/2 sheet of academy board that bears a partial Frost & Adams label. The light, disposable academy board was popular among professional artists in the late 19th century for rapid oil sketch and studies, particularly for en plein air painting. The majority of works on academy board within Bannister's oeuvre tend to be loose, compositionally less formal sketches and studies, and the absence of a signature is unsurprising in the case of a plein air oil sketch on academy board. The iconographic and methodological factors discussed above make it extremely likely that the painting was executed between 1881 and 1901, probably in the early 1890s, by Edward Mitchell Bannister.
We wish to thank Anne Louise Avery for her assistance in cataloging this lot.
Wear along edges of the artist board with tiny scattered chips, paint loss at center left edge and in u.l. corner near tack hole. Tack holes in both upper corners. Minor scuffing in u.r. and l.r. quadrants. Small abrasion (about 3/8 in.) in the clouds on the left. Small area of retouch (about 1 in.) on left side, 7 inches down from top and 3 inches in from left, and very minor scattered dots of retouch overall. Very minor bowing to the board.