Published: February 15, 2016
HARTFORD, CONN. — The Mark Twain House & Museum’s historic collections include many items that belonged to Sam Clemens (“Mark Twain”) and his family. Given the age of these pieces, they require periodic treatment and repair by professional conservators to ensure their preservation.
The museum recently celebrated the return of Charles Ethan Porter’s “Still Life with Chrysanthemums” to The Mark Twain House dining room. This painting and its frame underwent cleaning and repairs over the last six months by expert conservators of the Williamstown Art Conservation Center in Massachusetts.
Porter (1847–1923) was a successful still-life painter in the Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century. He attended the Wesleyan Academy in Massachusetts and went on to study at New York’s National Academy of Design, where he was one of the first African Americans to exhibit at the academy.
In 1878, he opened a studio in Hartford where Mark Twain came to know him through his local exhibitions. Critical acclaim for the painter attracted the attention of the author, who would use his own works to advance the rights of African Americans. In the early 1880s, Porter announced a sale of his works to raise money to study in Europe. In 1881, Twain wrote to artist Karl Gerhardt and his wife Harriet, asking them to help Porter when he arrived in Paris. He also wrote a general letter of introduction for Porter to the American community there.
Twain owned a Porter still-life of flowers that was hung in the dining room. Porter did multiple studies of different types of flowers. His subtle variations in color and light and unusual arrangements of the flowers made each canvas unique.
The restoration of the painting was made possible by grants from the Bay and Paul Foundations and the Ahearn Family Foundation. Anyone interested in supporting the museum’s conservation efforts, contact Director of Development Tracy Wu Fastenberg at 860-280-3113. The Mark Twain House & Museum is at 351 Farmington Avenue.
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