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Scenes of African-American Life in New Orleans: Late 19th-early 20th c. American genre painting attributed to Swedish-American artist Thure de Thulstrup.
Scenes of African-American Life in New Orleans: Late 19th-early 20th c. American genre painting attributed to Swedish-American artist Thure de Thulstrup.
Scenes of African-American Life in New Orleans: Late 19th-early 20th c. American genre painting attributed to Swedish-American artist Thure de Thulstrup.

Scenes of African-American Life in New Orleans: Late 19th-early 20th c. American genre painting attributed to Swedish-American artist Thure de Thulstrup.


In this American genre painting attributed to the Swedish-American artist, Thure de Thulstrup (1848–1930), seven African American men, likely in New Orleans, are depicted in a room adjacent to another room marked “Post Office.”

On one wall, a large illustrated broadside advertises for the “New Orleans” paddlewheel steamboat leaving on “Pier No 5 ... Thursday Morning March 19.” Another broadside is situated nearby, and above both broadsides is a suspended rifle. A seated man wearing a bowler hat and necktie holds a newspaper, listening to an older bearded man with gray hair and glasses who speaks with clasped hands. On the desk in front of him, there are several items: an inkwell, a glass of alcohol (?), a pitcher, a meerschaum pipe, and a folded letter with “California” written on it. Three other men in the room observe the conversation, their expressions suggest amusement or distrust.

Although paddlewheel steamboats were utilized for inland waterways, the painting’s themes of California and transportation may suggest its subject matter: a community deacon, or perhaps a father, implores a dashingly-dressed young man to not adventure to the American West. (Although speculative, events like the New Orleans Massacre of 1866 may have motivated a young Black man in New Orleans to consider a more promising life in California.) The glass and pipe may suggest that the young man has fallen into poor company, the “pleading” elder trying to bring the man back to a life of clean living.

Thulstrup was the staff artist for the New York Daily Graphic, Leslie’s and Harper’s Weekly, and a book illustrator. According to the Encyclopaedia of New Orleans Artists, 1718-1918, Thulstrup came to New Orleans, ca. 1902, “to make studies and sketches for the large historical painting ‘Hoisting American Colors, Louisiana Cession, 1803’ which was exhibited in New Orleans (1903) and St. Louis (1904).” He also exhibited at the Louisiana Historical Society (1903); Art Association Of New Orleans (1904). Additional research may uncover whether this painting was created during Thulstrup’s residency in New Orleans, exhibited in Louisiana, or produced earlier in the late 19th century, potentially in a different location.

Notably, Thulstrup’s painting exhibits clear parallels between a more famous painting he did entitled “A Raise in the South. The Deacon Bets a Seed, trusting it May Bring Forth a Hundred Fold.” Painted around 1895, this latter work saw widespread reproduction as a print and postcard. Both paintings depict similar figures: the same elderly, bearded, and partly-bald man (“The Deacon”), the young man with the bowler hat, the man with the red hat and distrustful look. Both paintings share noticeable facial resemblances and common details, like the triangular-shaped hat worn by the man in both scenes.


Description: Scenes of African-American Life in New Orleans: Late 19th-early 20th c. American genre painting attributed to Swedish-American artist Thure de Thulstrup.

[Likely New Orleans, late 19th to early 20th century]. 12 x 9 inches. Oil on artist’s board. Partial label affixed to the verso of Frost & Adams, located at 37 Cornhill in Boston, known to have been selling artists’ materials at least as late as 1898. Unsigned. Varnished, else very good.

[3733741]

Falk’s III:3298: Noting, among other facts, that Thulstrup exhibited at the Pan-American Expo (1901), Louisiana Purchase Exposition, St. Louis (1904) and that Thulstrup was honored as a Swedish Knight, Order of Vasa. Mahé and McCaffrey, Encyclopaedia of New Orleans Artists, 1718-1918, (HNOC, 1987).


Price: $3,500.00