Charles Ethan Porter

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Still Life (c. 1880)

Charles Ethan Porter (c. 1847 – March 6, 1923) was an American still life painter.

Porter was born in or about 1847 in Hartford, Connecticut. His family moved to the nearby village of Rockville (now part of Vernon, Connecticut) by the early 1850s. He graduated from the local high school in 1865.

In 1869, after two years of art study at Wesleyan Academy (now known as the Wilbraham & Monson Academy) in Wilbraham, Massachusetts, Porter went on to study at New York's National Academy of Design and was one of the first African Americans to exhibit at the Academy. In 1873 and 1875, he held an exhibit for the American Society of Painters in water color. A subsequent 1876 exhibit was at the National Academy of Design.

In 1878, he opened a studio in Hartford, Connecticut. In 1879, Frederic Church commended Porter's paintings. When he traveled to Paris several years later, he took with him a letter of recommendation from Mark Twain.

While in France, in 1881, he enrolled in the Ecole des Arts Decoratifs. He was in France from late 1881 to early 1884, probably also studying at the Académie Julian. He spent several months in the French countryside as well, including the village of Fleury, near Barbizon. Porter returned to the U.S. and opened a studio in New York City in 1885, and then returned to Hartford, where he opened a studio in 1887.

He left Hartford for Rockville in 1889, where he briefly had a studio in the Fitch Block, and later at the remains of a tower on Fox Hill, which a family member owned.

In 1910, Porter become a charter member of the Connecticut Academy of Fine Arts.

Still Life with Vase of Pink and White Peonies, Oil on canvas

Later, his fortunes declined, possibly because of health issues and certainly because of mounting racism nationwide, and he sold his paintings door-to-door in Rockville, Connecticut, where he died in 1923 in virtual obscurity, around the age of 75.

In recent years, Porter has been rediscovered and is now remembered as the creator of minor masterpieces of American still life painting. He is most famous for fruit and floral still life.


  • Application to the Ecole des Arts Decoratifs
  • Krieble, Helen et al., Charles Ethan Porter, 1847?-1923 (exhibition catalog, Connecticut Gallery, 1987)

External links[edit]