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Levi Wells Prentice

 (1851 - 1935)
Levi Wells Prentice was active/lived in New York, Connecticut.  Levi Prentice is known for still life, naive landscape and portrait painting.

Levi Wells Prentice

Biography from the Archives of askART

Biography photo for Levi Wells Prentice
Born in Lewis County, New York in the Adirondack Mountains, he earned a reputation for painting still lifes in landscape, although he began his career painting only the landscape.  His still lifes were of two types, either arrangements placed in the landscape or close-ups of fruit growing on trees or falling out of baskets.

He was raised on a farm from where he painted the mountain landscape of Lewis County and also painted in the vicinity of Buffalo and Syracuse.  In 1883, he moved to Brooklyn, New York, where he worked as a carpenter, frame- maker, and art teacher and also began painting still lifes objects, something that by 1894, he focused on exclusively, especially highly polished and well defined apples.

He left Brooklyn in 1903, and from that time, little is known except that his obituary was in the Philadelphia newspapers in 1935.

Peter Falk, Who Was Who in American Art

Biography from Karen L. North, Private Art Dealer
Self-taught artist Levi Wells Prentice is best known for his realistic still-life compositions of fruit arranged within a landscape, or abundantly spilling from bushel baskets.  Early in his career, he painted portraits and landscapes of the Adirondack Mountain region of Lewis County, New York, where Prentice was born in 1851.

Prentice later turned to painting still-life subjects when he moved to Brooklyn, New York in 1883.  He was a member of the Brooklyn Art Association and frequently exhibited his paintings there.  In addition to his artistic talents, Prentice also designed his own frames and made his own brushes and palettes.

Prentice's fruit still lifes are compositions are intended to create dramatic contrasts.  The shift between dark background areas and the vibrant hues of the fruit are done to give the compositions an exciting, visual energy.  The fruit is presented with clarity and precision.  An emphasis is placed on the idea of man vs. nature.  The wooden baskets with hand wrought nails represents a structured, man-made object, while the overly ripe fruit represents the fleeting qualities of nature.

These paintings also demonstrate Prentice's remarkable skills at rendering color, form, and texture. Noted art historian, William H. Gerdts observed: "there are several works by Prentice in which he achieves a quality of illusionism which is unsurpassed." (1)

In 1993, the skillful 'illusionism' of Levi Wells Prentice was celebrated in a retrospective exhibition at the Adirondack Museum in New York.  His works continue to receive a high degree of appreciation by collectors today. His works are represented in many museums including the New York State Museum, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Montclair Art Museum, Philbrook Museum of Art and Yale University Art Gallery.


(1) Gerdts, William H. Painters of the Humble Truth: Masterpieces of American Still-life, 1801-1939. London: University of Missouri Press, 1981; p. 206.

Biography from Newman Galleries
Levi Wells Prentice was born in the Adirondack Mountains of New York in 1851.  This self-taught artist began painting landscapes of the area in the 1870's, when his family moved to Syracuse.  Early in his career, Prentice also painted portraiture.  In the late 1880's, Prentice moved to Brooklyn.  It is believed that it was at this point, when he was no longer surrounded by mountain views that he began to paint still lifes. His earliest example of a painting in this genre is inscribed 1892.

Although Prentice was known for his still lifes, he was remembered as a landscape painter skilled in depicting the glorious lake and mountain beauty of Adirondacks.  In addition to painting, he designed his own frames, brushes and palettes, and was a talented furniture maker as well. Newman Galleries employed Prentice as a framemaker.

In 1993, the Adirondack Museum at Blue Moutnain Lake, New York mounted a comprehensive exhibition of Prentice's works.

The artist died in 1935.

Newman Galleries

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About  Levi Wells Prentice

Born:  1851 - Harrisburgh, New York
Died:   1935 - Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Known for:  still life, naive landscape and portrait painting

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Levi Wells Prentice

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