Aspiring architect Soren Emil Carlsen immigrated to the United States from his native Denmark in 1872. Endowed with great natural ability as a painter and draughtsman, he soon turned to a full-time career as an artist, specializing in still life paintings. Carlsen was regarded second only to William Merritt Chase as America’s leading still life painter, although he considered himself primarily a landscapist. He settled in San Francisco, where he was a close colleague of Arthur Matthews, the leader of the American Arts and Crafts Movement in California. Carlsen’s style derived largely from the work of James Abbott McNeill Whistler, yet he added his own impressionist touch.
The simplified setting and careful placement of the ceramics in this still life recall the work of eighteenth-century French artist Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin. Carlsen’s choice of Asian objects was probably inspired by Whistler, who was instrumental in spreading enthusiasm for Japanese aesthetics (called japonisme). Whistler also influenced Carlsen’s spare, concentrated design and subdued harmonies of blue, white, and muted green.