Although Bannister is best known for his pastoral landscapes, he depicted the sea and shores of Rhode Island just as frequently. In Newport, 1877–82, he provides a close-up view of waves crashing into the rocky coastline. Painterly brushstrokes capture the rapid movement of the white waves and the shifting grey clouds overhead—signs of an approaching storm. During the late 1870s and 1880s, Bannister meticulously recorded skies and clouds in different weather conditions, in addition to producing numerous drawings and watercolours of harbours and inland waterways. Bannister painted Newport at a time when his career was flourishing. During this period, he won the first prize medal for painting at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, became a board member of the newly opened Rhode Island School of Design, and, in 1878, co-founded the Providence Art Club, which became central to the development of the visual arts in the city.
Artist and Abolitionist
Edward Mitchell Bannister, Newport, 1877–82
Oil on waxed canvas, 43.2 x 73.4 cm, Collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC, Gift of Gerald Scher (1983.95.147).