Edwin Deakin (American (b. England), 1838–1923)
Samuel Marsden Brookes in His Studio, 1876
Oil on canvas
20 x 16 in. (50.8 x 40.6 cm)


When thirty-three-year-old Edwin Deakin moved from Chicago to San Francisco in 1871, his older friend, Samuel Marsden Brookes, was already an established artist there. Brookes helped organize the California Art Union and was a founding member of the Bohemian Club. Deakin paints Brookes–his artistic colleague, studio-mate, and sometimes mentor–with deliberate, romanticized seriousness. The subject, illuminated by the skylight from the upper left, continues working uninterrupted, enjoying the privacy of facing away from the viewer. The slightly ramshackle studio, too, is suitably mythologized, cluttered with half-finished canvases scattered about while the painter works on one of his signature fish paintings hanging in darkness. As depicted by Deakin, the fish are sketchy and vague, as if only Brookes were permitted to reach the goal of verisimilitude.


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