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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

An Exquisite Still Life Painting By James Sillet, President of the Famed Norwich Society of Artists

James Sillett (1764-1840)
Still life of Flowers in a Vase
Oil on canvas
Canvas size: 14” x 11”; framed size: 17 3/4” x 14 1/2”
Signed “J (in monogram) Sillett.”

During the early nineteenth century Norwich became a burgeoning center of the arts in Britain.  The Norwich Society or School was led by the painters John Crome and John Sell Cotman, and by 1805 was holding annual exhibitions of works by its eighteen members, the first of their type outside London.  The Society's purpose was: "An Enquiry into the Rise, Progress and present state of Painting, Architecture and Sculpture, with a view to point out the Best Methods of study to attain to Greater Perfection in these Arts." Meetings were held fortnightly and the School flourished until the beginning of the 1830's with the annual exhibitions coming to an end in 1833.  Although the exhibitions were revived in 1839 the Society was unable to attain its previous successes.

James Sillett served as President of the Norwich Society of Artists from 1815.  He had received his training at the Royal Academy, London but returned to Norwich in 1810 after a brief sojourn in King's Lynn where he illustrated Richard's History of Lynn.  Between 1797 and1837 he exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy and is best known for his exquisite still life works.  This spectacular work captures the beauty and delicacy of many of the flowers that bloom during the British springtime.  The Fritillaria meleagris 'Purple King' is seen to the right of the arrangements and two different varieties of Narcissi are central to the composition.  Sillett's vibrant use of color and skillful use of the brush make this a particularly desirable example of the artist's work.

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