Watercolor on paper river fantasy scene set in the tropics, 10 1/2" by 22" and 3" wide circa early 20th century frame in very good condition, signed at lower right "W W COWELL" and dated 18(last two digits not easily discernible, possibly "189_" or could be "1879"). This is one of the rare works of painter WILLIAM WILSON COWELL (1819-1898), primarily an east coast artist who also was known to paint in the Great Lakes area, and, late in life, in Nova Scotia, Canada. An oil by the artist recently sold for $19,000. Obviously talented, he's little known, most likely because there are so few works available. He trained in Europe in the 1840's and once back in America he studied marine painting under Edward Moran. Exhibitions of his work at the Brooklyn Art Association, Pennsylvania Academy, and Art Institute of Chicago are noted. Evidently he was aware of the works of such painters as Francis A. Silva, William Trost Richards, Xanthus Smith, and others of the Hudson RIver School. Cowell seemed to want to specialize in marine scenes and the few paintings available today are mostly harbors and coastals. This watercolor is in excellent fresh condition, the colors like the day they were painted. The scene to me is likely a fantasy, not the tropical Panama isthmus scenes of those heading to California, nor is it the Nile River. A detailed biography of the artist is available on the site of Heritage Auctions, where the marine oil brought the $19,000 in June of 2009. This painting is ready for the wall. .
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