Written by Kiani Ned, Curatorial Intern
Still life painting gained recognition as an independent subject in American art in the 17th century but was considered low on the art hierarchy behind history paintings and portraiture, until the late 19th century. The genre gained its newfound popularity through the work of the Peale family of artists in Philadelphia. The New England area experienced a growth in this area of interest as seen in the development of several schools of still life painting, including one in Leavitt’s home town of Providence, Rhode Island. Leavitt’s most notable work comes in the form of realistically painted scenes of fruit, flowers, and various ornaments on a tabletop. In this painting, his skill is illustrated through the decadent use of color, light, and texture to illustrate the fleshy peaches, grapes, and leaves in and around a silver bowl that rests on a gleaming table top. Leavitt’s trompe l’oeil still life painting fools the eye into believing that by simply reaching out into the painting that you can hold and even taste the sumptuous fruit resting on the platter. Still Life of Peaches and Grapes serves homage to Flemish still life imagery from the 17th century which was characterized by a variety of food, floral elements, and luxury items adorning polished table tops.