Francis Silva

Beers Cottage, Far Rockaway.

Oil on canvas, c.1883.
Canvas size: 24 x 44" (61 x 101.8 cm), Overall framed size: 37 3/4 x 57" (96 x 145 cm) .
Overall in good to very good condition. There is a small section on the right along the horizon line, just left of the sails that has been inpainted. A 3" scratch in upper center portion of sky and two small areas of inpainting in the sky above the house on the left. At one time the names on the boathouses were removed. Professionally relined.
LOCATION: New York City

Inventory Number: 94281
Price: $115,000.00
Publisher :
The title taken from the tablet on the frame was on the painting when it was originally purchased by The Old Print Shop in 1954 and is believed to have been with the painting since 1883. After studying maps and charts from the period, we have concluded that the scene shown is likely the home and property of James Mulry or William Caffrey, as well as their bath houses & restaurants that were located on the outer beach.

In the left foreground of the painting is a charming gingerbread style home with a wraparound porch. On the shore is a boathouse-pavilion-ferry slip with a note charging 5 cents to take passengers across the channel to the ocean beach via a gaff rigged sloop shown in the middle of the channel on the return trip from the island. To the right is another boathouse offering boats for rent. Flags the United States, England, Holland, France, and Ireland are shown flying. It is likely that the proprietors focused on the many immigrant groups who lived in the city. The ocean beach and the many bathhouses and restaurants that the ferry served shown are in the distance. The boathouses once had names painted on them. It is surmised that the painting was commissioned by one of the owners and later when the property was sold, the new owners had it removed.

The the outer beach was at the time called Hog Island. The history of this island is geographically short lived. Basically, it is a sandbar on the south shore of Long Island. In Bellot’s History of the Rockaways (1917) he says “The beach at Far Rockaway, and for many miles east and west, is undergoing frequent local changes. Many times the surf washes away several rods in width during a single storm, and perhaps the next storm adds more than has been removed by the proceeding one. The sea often makes inlets to the bays and marshes, and as often fills up others... The bathing beach of the village which, of course, is the greatest attraction to the enormous number of summer visitors, was not always as it is today. Up to fifteen years ago (remember this was written in 1917) the bathing beach was separated from the village beach proper by Far Rockaway Bay and Inlet, and it was on this outer beach, or Hog Island as it was called on account of its resemblance to a hog’s back, that a large number of bathhouses were created.” In September 1893, a direct hit by a hurricane destroyed Hog Island Beach, whipping it clean of any manmade structures and greatly reducing its size. The beach houses and pavilions were rebuilt and cable ferries, then bridges were made. However, in 1903, another hurricane took the beach and structures completely away. Today, there is no longer an island there, just open water.

Francis A. Silva was born on October 4, 1835, in New York City and died March 31, 1886. As a schoolboy, Silva exhibited pen drawings at the American Institute. However, Silva's parents did not want him to pursue art as a career. So, he apprenticed to several trades before ending up with a sign painter. He worked in that trade until the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861. Silva served with the Seventh Regiment of the New York State Militia during the Civil War. He advanced from lieutenant to captain during the war. In 1868, he married Margaret A. Watts in Keyport, New Jersey.
In the National Academy of Design Annual Exhibition of 1868-69, he exhibited his first painting. Silva's earliest known painting is Cape Ann dated 1870. He quickly developed a reputation as a marine painter and was known for exaggerating and intensifying the natural effects of light and air. His subtle manipulation of light and atmosphere was an aesthetic device that transcended naturalism and became an almost abstract means of expressing sentiment. He became known as one of the leaders in the American Luminist movement.
By 1870, Silva had developed a remarkably skillful technique and a repertoire of marine subjects and atmospheric effects that varied little for the rest of his life. He evolved from the somewhat tentative handling of such early canvases as Sunrise: Marine View (1870, Hirschl and Adler Galleries) to the crisper forms of such later works as View near New London, Connecticut (1877, Brooklyn Museum).

Although his luminous technique led to his election to the American Water Color Society in 1872, he was primarily known for his late paintings, which were nearly impressionist in feeling. Just before he died in 1886, Silva painted A Summer Afternoon at Long Branch (1885, National Gallery of Art), considered his masterpiece.

He was a member of the American Water Color Society. His work in in the collections of Broad Street Trust, Boston; Brooklyn Museum; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; Peabody Museum of Salem, Massachusetts.
Biography courtesy of Roughton Galleries.

Framed in a 20th-century handmade gold leaf molding.
18th-19th Century Subjects , Town Views - United States , New York State - Long Island