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New Roesen Still Life at Taber Museum

PHOTO PROVIDED This still life by local artist Severin Roesen is the newest acquistiion at the Thomas T. Taber museum in Williamsport.

The Thomas T. Taber Museum of the Lycoming County Historical Society in Williamsport is delighted to announce the recent acquisition of a 19th century Severin Roesen painting, which has been loaned by Bobby Maguire in honor of his parents Jim & Shirley Maguire. It is Maguire’s intention to turn the loan into a permanent gift to the museum within the year.

Born near Cologne, Germany in 1814, Roesen emigrated to the United States in 1848, initially settling in New York City. From 1862 until his death in 1872, Roesen was known for his monumental still lifes, which incorporated floral and fruit motifs.

Gary Parks,Taber Museum Director, was thrilled when the offer of the painting came, as he thought Roesen’s work was under-represented in their collection, considering that so many of his paintings were done in Williamsport.

“How often does an offer such as this come?” Parks said. “We have a Roesen still life donated by the Lamade family and we are so thrilled to have it in our collection, but now a second one to admire and love.”

In 1857, Roesen left his family and moved to Pennsylvania, briefly living in Philadelphia, and then moving to rural, German-American communities in Harrisburg and Huntingdon. He finally settled in Williamsport around 1863, during the heyday of logging and lumbering in Lycoming County. It was during this period that many of Roesen’s paintings existed within the confines of Lycoming County, and many area folks revered his work.

It is said that at one time, more millionaires lived in Williamsport than anywhere else on earth. Although Roesen never achieved financial success during his lifetime, it is to his credit that First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy chose two of his paintings to appear in her refurbishment of the White House in the early 1960s. It was after this that Roesen’s talent was more fully appreciated nationally.

“The double-edged sword was that when Jaqueline Kennedy refurbished the White House, she used two Severin Roesens for the White House collection, which gave rise to his name and more people became aware of him,” Parks said. “But at the same time the price tag went up, and so they were sold out of Williamsport households – not to return.”

Roesen is known to have painted over three hundred of these elaborate paintings, of which only about two dozen are dated. They are represented in several major museum collections throughout the country including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Baltimore

Museum of Art, the Chrysler Museum, the St. Louis Art Museum, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the National Art Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution.

“Many of the major museums in the country have a Severin Roesen, so we’re lucky to have them,” Parks said. “When you think of it, we’re a County Historical Society, so you don’t expect that much. But hopefully everybody is pleasantly surprised.”

The painting will join the Taber Museum’s other still life, a permanent gift of the children of George R. and Margaret Hays Lamade. Both feature the luscious fruits that are emblematic of Roesen’s work.

A footed dessert plate full of strawberries is often a common motif in Roesen’s paintings. Also usually present is an open bottle of champagne, interchangeable with a champagne glass or wine goblet, and nearly always placed at the lower left edge of the painting. Branches full of grapes arranged from lower left to upper right provide the composition, balanced by light and dark grapes at either side and filled in by raspberries, cherries, peaches, plums, apricots, apples, pears, and watermelon.

“In the still life loaned by Mr. Maguire, the grapes glisten with drops of dew, the slice of watermelon is brimming with juice, and the champagne flute has bubbles rising to the top!” Parks said. “His signature ‘S. Roesen’ is cleverly disguised as a grape tendril at the central bottom of the still life.”

Parks believes the painting will be a tremendous asset to the Museum’s collection and feels incredibly blessed to receive such generosity from the Maguire and Lamade families, who are willing to share their treasures.

“We are so thrilled to receive this loan from Mr. Maguire – his generosity and kindness are beyond measure,” he said. Thanks to him all of our visitors will be able to view the beauty of Roesen’s work.”

Both paintings are featured in the Fine and Decorative Gallery of the museum. A second loan from Maguire is a Federal-style looking glass. It will be displayed within the Greek Revival Parlor exhibit.

Parks said there will likely be an opening reception when the newly acquired painting officially becomes theirs. The reception would be a fundraiser for the Taber Museum.

The Taber Museum is open for touring Tuesdays through Fridays, 9:30am until 4:00pm and Saturdays, 11:00am until 4:00pm. Ample parking can be found behind the museum or on the street. For further information, please visit the museum’s website at tabermuseum.org or call (570) 326-3326.

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