John F. Francis (Philadelphia, Aug 13, 1808 – Jeffersonville, Nov 15, 1886) was an
American painter, primarily of still lifes.
He was born in Philadelphia. Predominantly self-taught as an artist, he worked until
1845 as a portrait painter in central and eastern Pennsylvania. Francis's portraits
reveal his early fascination with the most minute details. In 1845, Francis began
exhibiting his works at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and the
Philadelphia Art Union, which promoted American artists by awarding paintings to
subscribers using lottery-like drawings. It was in this period that he began to
concentrate on still life, which had been established as a popular genre in
Philadelphia by Raphaelle Peale and other painters. His first known still life is dated
1850, and by 1854 he ceased to paint anything else. Francis became known as a
leading practitioner of luncheon and dessert still life painting , developing an
intricate vocabulary of forms required by his specialized subject. William H. Gerdts
writes: "Of all the mid-century still-life specialists, Francis was the most painterly.
There is often a freshness and a brio to his paint application that successfully
balance his sure delineation of form and his establishment of texture".
Nearly all his paintings depict fruits and desserts. He painted many replicas of his
works, and his style underwent little change over the course of his career.
According to art historian Alfred Frankenstein, "his blond, high-keyed palette
always provides one of the most distinctive accents in a general exhibition of
American still life". Few of his paintings can be dated after 1872 and none after
1880. He was mainly forgotten by the time of his death in 1886