Ponce Silk-Cotton Tree

A Caribbean impressionist painting

Ponce Silk-Cotton Tree (1887-1888) by Francisco Oller y CesteroMuseo de Arte de Ponce

Francisco Oller y Cestero was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1833. He began his studies under the tutelage of Juan Cletos Noa in San Juan. His artistic achievements earned him a spot on the Royal Academy of San Bernardo in Madrid in the early 19th century. 

In 1858, he moved to Paris to continue his studies at L'Académie Suisse and L'Ecole Imperiale et Spéciale de Dessin.

Hacienda Aurora (1898) by Francisco Oller y CesteroMuseo de Arte de Ponce

While he lived in Paris, he went out into the countryside to paint with colleagues like Camille Pizarro and Paul Cézanne. When Oller returned to Puerto Rico in 1884, he continued to paint landscapes. 

Ponce Silk-Cotton Tree (1887-1888) by Francisco Oller y CesteroMuseo de Arte de Ponce

According to scholars, Ponce Silk-Cotton Tree is the oldest Puerto Rican landscape by the artist that exists so far. 

Ponce probably painted this under the shadow of a tree. The shadows of the tree’s leaves appear in the foreground of the picture. The inclusion of these shadows unites the artist with the artwork. 

Centuries ago, Puerto Rican Indigenous people considered the silk cotton tree to be sacred. It still remains an important landmark today. 

This scene gave the artist an opportunity to render reflections in water one of the signature themes of impressionism 

In many of his landscapes, Oller created tableaux of small figures, as he did in this one depicting laundresses along the banks of the Portugués river. 

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