Charles Ethan Porter, Portrait of a 19th-Century African American Painter
Charles Ethan Porter, Fruit: Apples, Grapes, Peaches, and Pears

Charles Ethan Porter, Fruit: Apples, Grapes, Peaches, and Pears, 1875, oil on canvas - Connecticut Historical Society

Charles Ethan Porter was a prolific still life painter in the 19th and early 20th century. Little is known about Porter’s early life; however, it is known that he moved with his family from Hartford to Rockville in the early 1850s and in 1865 graduated from the local high school. A few years later, Porter attended the Wesleyan Academy in Massachusetts and went on to study at New York’s National Academy of Design, where he was one of the first African Americans to exhibit at the Academy. In 1878 he opened a Hartford studio and in the early 1880s traveled to France where he enrolled in the École des Arts Décoratifs. Porter returned to the States and, after time in New York City, again opened a Hartford studio. Porter’s success declined in later years, and he died at age 75 in poverty and obscurity in his hometown of Rockville. Rediscovered in recent years, Charles Ethan Porter’s works are recognized as masterpieces of American still life painting, and he is now counted as one of the country’s outstanding late 19th-century painters.

Learn More


Connecticut Freedom Trail. “Charles Ethan Porter House,” 2017. Link.
“Connecticut Museum of Culture and History,” 2017. Link.

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