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Edward C. Leavitt   Click Images to Enlarge

Edward C. Leavitt

Still life with Fruit, 1893

Oil on canvas
12 x 20 inches


(American, 1842-1904)

Edward Chalmers Leavitt was born in Providence, Rhode Island, March 9, 1842, the son of Rev. Jonathan and Charlotte Esther (Stearns) Leavitt.  His paternal ancestor was John Leavitt, who came to Massachusetts Bay in the first ship and settled in Hingham.  On the maternal side, he descended from John Alden and Priscilla Mullens, who came to Plymouth in the Mayflower.

Leavitt was educated in private schools in Providence, and at Kimball Union Academy, Meriden, New Hampshire.  During the Civil War in 1862 and 1863, he served in the navy on the U.S.S. Galena .  In his profession as artist, Mr. Leavitt is especially noted as a painter of fruit, flowers and still life.

He exhibited in the National Academy for several years, and has made many successful exhibitions in Providence and Boston.  He was a member of the Boston and Providence art clubs, and the Providence Press Club.  He was also a member of the Grand Army of the Republic.  In politics his proclivities were mainly Republican.  He was married first on May 19, 1877, to Ellen M. Fuller; and second, April 22, 1880, to Elizabeth S. Chace.

Leavitt was described as "Providence, Rhode Island's leading still-life painter" in the late 19th Century  (Zellman 324).  His teacher, James Morgan Lewin, was a prominent still-life painter in Fall River, Massachusetts, a neighboring town.

Leavitt, a detailed, sharp-focused, realistic painter, was in love with texture and light, and was prolific and successful, painting a variety of still life subjects including flowers, fruit and even fish and dead game animals.  His objects, including costly antiques and household decorative items, were often placed on ornamental, gleaming surfaces in realistic settings.

The artist, who died in 1904, moved from a position of success and popularity to being ignored for many years until the publication of William H. Gerdts and Russell Burke's American Still-Life Painting in 1971.  Today, he is one of America's most sought-after still life painters from Rhode Island.

Leavitt remained devoted to the art of the still life.  His paintings are sharply focused, realistic, and carefully finished. Ornate objects such as urns, ewers, platters, cut glassware and opulent fabrics are arranged with fruit and flowers on highly polished, reflective surfaces, creating dramatic decorative effects.

Prolific and highly acclaimed, Leavitt exhibited at the National Academy, Boston Art Club and the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.  His work inspired other still life painters in Providence, resulting in that city's own still life tradition, including artists John Clinton Spencer, Bryant Chapin, Charles Storer and George Whitaker.

References: "Men of Progress: Biographical Sketches and Portraits of Leaders in Business and Professional Life from the State of Rhode Island." New England magazine, 1896; Michael David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art; Peter Hastings Falk, Editor, Who Was Who in American Art