The Color Virtuocity of Charles Cromwell Ingham

While I speak often about the inspiration I have garnered from the virtuosity on display with the Trompe L’oeil works in the Metropolitan Museum—one artist in the Met’s collection really “dominates the field” for me in regards to higher-chroma color deployment in representational work—and that is Irish American painter Charles Cromwell Ingham (1796-1863).

One example that really demonstrates his virtuosity in this regard is a piece titled ““The Flower Girl” (1846, Oil on canvas, 36 x 28 3/8 in. (91.4 x 72.1 cm)

From the Met”: “The Flower Girl” is a highly unusual subject for Ingham, an artist who rarely strayed from portraiture. He may have painted it as a speculative work, or on commission from Jonathan Sturges, who owned the work by the time it appeared on exhibition in the spring of 1847 at the National Academy of Design. Images of street vendors were popular in American and European painting at the time, but more often the subjects were enterprising boys rather than girls. Ingham may well have been familiar with a popular image of the same title by the Spanish painter Esteban Murillo. The setting for Murillo’s picture is virtually identical to Ingham’s and the Spanish flower girl offers her wares with a direct appeal to her viewer, as does Ingham’s American girl. Under her left arm, Ingham’s girl carries a magnificent bouquet of flowers that he must have painted from life, but were beyond compare not only in contemporary still life painting but also on the streets of New York. In her right hand, she offers a potted fuchsia, the gesture emblematic of the goddess Flora. The plant itself is symbolic of frustrated love.

Photos do this no justice. I highly recommend seeking out the Cromwell works when you visit the Met (his portrait of Amelia Palmer is arguably even more amazing but no images even come close to capturing his handling of the color in the piece.)

(Interesting history bit: Ingham was a founder of the New York National Academy of Design during the 19th century.)


Wow, stunning, and as an extra bonus I love when an artist incorporates their signature within the painting, smooth!
Not heard of Ingham before either, so gotta do some investigating now.

The abundance of careful flower petal combinations puts me in mind of Alma-Tadema’s “The Roses of Heliogabalus” which must have taken some considerable stepping back from to keep it so balanced and cohesive…