Musée No:379.083Regular price $32.27
Artist: Pauline Powell Burns
Date: ca 1890
Pauline Powell Burns, (1872 – 1912), was an American painter and pianist. She was the first African-American artist to exhibit paintings in California in 1890. Her great-grandfather was blacksmith Joseph Fossett, one of Thomas Jefferson's slaves freed by the terms of his will in 1826.
Born into a middle-class family, Burns was part of a small and vibrant African American cultural and religious community in Oakland, California. In addition to her accomplishments as a painter, she was a talented pianist, featured in numerous newspaper articles highlighting her concert appearances.
Although her paintings at the Mechanics' Institute Fair in San Francisco in 1890 received "great praise," she was known more as a pianist and is listed in a 1919 history of African-Americans in California solely as a piano teacher. Powell’s artwork is scarce, partly because of when she lived but also because she died at the age of 40 of tuberculosis.
At first glance, Violets appears to be a simple painting of fresh-cut flowers, but during the Victorian era flowers were given a wide range of meanings so that personal feelings and emotions could be expressed without having to say them aloud. The blue violet symbolized watchfulness, faithfulness and love. Still lifes were popular among 19th-century women artists, and she received notable recognition for her talent.