William Joseph McCloskey (American, 1859–1941)
Oranges in Tissue Paper, ca. 1890
Oil on canvas
10 x 17 in. (25.4 x 43.2 cm)
Oranges had long been considered a precious luxury and were purchased in the Northeast at great expense. But by 1890, cultivation in Florida and California had reached a scale that allowed the exotic and visually impressive fruit to enter the homes of more modestly well-to-do citizens, where it became a symbol of status and hospitality. Artists were, of course, drawn to the chromatic intensity of the fruit, especially in contrast with the translucence of its inner segments, as seen in McCloskey’s treatment. The addition of the tissue paper in this picture gives the surfaces and tonalities another delicate element and is rooted in the actual practice of wrapping the fruit in this way before it was packed into boxes for interstate transport.

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