Austin C. Wooster
Little is known about the life of Austin C. Wooster (1838 - 1913). He was born in Chartiers Valley, near Pittsburgh, and is thought to have worked and lived exclusively in Pittsburgh throughout his career. During the Civil War he fought on the Union side and was captured and imprisoned by Confederate forces in Libby Prison. He began painting as a landscape artist, but soon turned to still lifes in the tradition of Albert F. King, a fellow Pittsburgh artist, with whom he may have studied. Straw Hat with Peaches uses an artfully simple composition based on the geometry of repeated circles formed by the straw hat and peaches. Wooster's use of color and his realistic study of texture is beautifully displayed in this piece which celebrates the beauty of nature. Because of the relatively few paintings survive, along with their sometimes varying quality, has limited Wooster's reputation as a still life painter of the 19th century. This piece demonstrates the high quality that his work could achieve.