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Francis Augustus Silva
Date: 1835–1886
Remarks: A self-taught artist, Silva began his career as a sign and carriage painter in New York City. After the Civil War, he painted coastal subjects in New England and the Mid-Atlantic states, specializing in views of ships and harbors. The suffused light in Silva's luminist seascapes suggests a spiritual presence in nature. Francis Augustus Silva was born in New York City on October 4, 1835. As a young boy Silva exhibited his drawings at the American Institute from 1848 to 1850. He began his artistic career as an apprentice to a sign painter, working at that trade and as a carriage painter until the outbreak of the Civil War. He enlisted in the Union forces and by 1866 had been promoted to colonel. Upon resigning his commission, Silva established himselft as an artist in New York City and for a time had a studio in the Tenth Street Studio Building. Entirely self-taught, Silva at first painted historical subjects, before he moved to Brooklyn. There he began to paint marine subjects, which became his specialty. An active member of the Society of Painters in Watercolors beginning in 1872, he painted in watercolor throughout his career. In 1873, he was a member of the Artists' Fund Society. Silva's coastal subjects were not limited to the New York area. He traveled to New England and the Middle Atlantic states, making popular views of ships in harbors. He died in New York City on March 31, 1886.