Francis Augustus Silva
(1835 - 1886)
Francis Augustus Silva was active/lived in New York. Francis Silva is known for coastal views, marine and landscape painting.
Francis Augustus Silva
Biography from the Archives of askART
Born in New York, Francis Silva was a second generation Hudson River School* painter, who did much
painting along the Hudson River and along the coastline from Chesapeake Bay to Cape Ann,
Massachusetts. His earliest known painting is titled Cape Ann.
Biography from Modern Art Dealers
He became one of the leading marine
painters of the luminist* style of the mid to late 19th century,
especially known for his brilliant sunsets with atmospheric*
effects. Of him, it was written: "For Silva, the subtle
manipulation of light and atmosphere was an aesthetic device that
transcended naturalism and became an almost abstract means of
expressing sentiment." (Zellman, 265)
Francis Silva was the son of a barber who had
emigrated from Madeira to New York in 1830. He showed early art talent and with no apparent
formal training, he apprenticed to a sign painter in New York and
decorated fire wagons, vans, stagecoaches, etc. He also exhibited pen and ink drawings at the American Institute.
In 1861, he
enlisted in a New York militia and became a Captain of the Ninth New
York Volunteer Infantry in the Civil War. He was stricken with
malaria, and, wrongfully accused of desertion, received a dishonorable
discharge. He applied for reinstatement, which was granted, and
then received an honorable discharge.
1865, he began his career as fine artist, and in 1868 made his debut at
the National Academy of Design's* annual exhibition. That same
year, he married Margaret Watts of Keyport, New Jersey.
From that time, he received much acclaim for his serene, atmospheric
paintings, and his later paintings tended towards Impressionism in
style. In 1872, he was elected to the American Watercolor
Francis Silva maintained his studio in New York but moved to New
Jersey in 1880. He died in 1886.
Michael David Zellman, 300 Years of American Art
Peter Falk, Who Was Who in American Art
* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see
Francis A. Silva was born on October 4, 1835 in New York City and died
March 31, 1886. He was one of two children born to Francis John
Silva. Little is known about his mother except that she was born
in New York. As a schoolboy, Silva exhibited pen drawings at the
American Institute. Silva's parents, however, 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.
Biography from Roger King Fine Art
Silva wouldn't begin his
art career until after service in the Seventh Regiment of the New York
State Militia during the Civil War. Advancing from lieutenant to
captain, Silva was soon stricken with "miasmatic disease." He was
dishonorably discharged for desertion when he left his regiment, but
was soon reinstated.
In 1868, Silva married Margaret A. Watts in
Keyport, New Jersey. His debut as a painter was at the National
Academy of Design's annual exhibition of 1868-1869. Silva
developed a reputation as a marine painter. He became known for
exaggerating and intensifying natural effects of light and air for
poetic purposes. His subtle manipulation of light and atmosphere
was an aesthetic device that transcended naturalism and became an
almost abstract means of expressing sentiment. Silva became known
as one of the leaders in the American Luminist movement.
1870, Silva had evolved from a self-taught artist, to one with a
remarkably skillful technique and a repertoire of marine subject and
atmospheric effects that varied little for the rest of his life. "We
have few artists who are so accurate in drawing or so conscientious in
the rendering of detail," an Art Journal critic wrote in
1880. His luminous technique led to his election to the American
Water Color Society in 1872. Just before he died in 1886, Silva painted
A Summer Afternoon at Long Branch (1885, National Gallery of Art), considered his masterpiece.
American Water Color Society
Broad Street Trust, Boston
National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts
Francis Augustus Silva was a Luminist painter of the "second
generation" of Hudson River School painters. He probably had no
formal training, but he was apprenticed to a sign painter and went on
to paint decorative and landscape panels for stagecoaches and fire
** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at
In 1868 he began a career as an artist after his marriage, exhibiting
at the National Academy of Design and the Brooklyn Art
Association. His primary interest was in marine and coastal
scenes, and he traveled extensively along the Northeast coast,
particularly to Cape Ann in Massachusetts and Narragansett Bay, Rhode
Island, as well as along the Hudson River and along the New Jersey
His carefully constructed compositions are characterized by their sense
of tranquility and even wistfulness, along with a fastidiously rendered
receding perspective shared by colleagues Fitz Henry Lane and Martin
His compositions are carefully constructed, leading the viewer's eye to
the far distance, often via the device of a lone figure in a sailboat
situated in the canvas foreground. His paintings are known for their
sense of tranquility and their poetic and nostalgic nature. Silva
especially liked to portray the intense light effects of sunrise and
sunset, using vibrant shades of pinks, oranges, and yellows.
Share an image of the Artist email@example.com.