7 Items in this Learning Collection
Collection Object
Collection Object

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Basket of Fruit

Accession Number

Basket of Fruit

American; Artist Unknown

Artist Nationality
American (North American)

Object Creation Date
circa 1825

Medium & Support
stenciled watercolor on paper

15 x 18 x 1 1/4 in. (38.1 x 45.72 x 3.18 cm)

Credit Line
Gift of The Daniel and Harriet Fusfeld Folk Art Collection

Label copy
Unknown Artist
United States, 19th century
Basket of Fruit
circa 1825
Stenciled watercolor
Gift of the Daniel and Harriet Fusfeld Folk Art Collection, 2002/1.184
The education of young women in the early nineteenth century often included some training in the visual arts. One popular technique at the time was theorem painting. First described by Matthew Finn in 1830, theorem painting was “a mechanical method of painting a picture by applying paint through a series of stencils or ‘theorems.’” The most popular subjects were baskets of fruit, as seen here, or flowers. Stencils of leaves and fruit were laid in a pattern and then filled in with watercolor. Although “a mechanical method,” theorem painting did allow for variety in the placement of elements, and the final painting exhibited a painter’s control of the watercolor medium.
(Out of the Ordinary, 2010)
After being introduced to England by the Chinese in the eighteenth century, theorums, or stencils, became popular in the United States. Increasing numbers of young girls attended female academies and finishing schools during the nineteenth century. At these schools, the young girls would receive training in the "polite arts," such as stenciling, painting and drawing.
Fruit baskets were popular subjects for stencils. This work depicts realistically colored fruit juxtaposed with intricately detailed leaves. The shading and color variation on the fruit and leaves implies three-dimensional images, but there still appears to be an overall flatness to the objects in this work. Some fruit is visible through the open weave of the basket, which demonstrates the artist’s attention to naturalistic detail.

Lindsay Meehan
Modern and Contemporary Art Intern

Physical Description
A composition of pears, apples, grapes, cherries, and plums in a yellow basket with a branch arching above the fruit and basket. 

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