Born in New York City, Francis Silva’s began his artistic career sign painting and painting historical subjects on wooden panels of stagecoaches. Silva joined the Army during the Civil War, causing a temporary lull in his artistic career. After the war Silva began painting in earnest and exhibited his first painting at the National Academy of Design in 1868. Although he was self-taught, Silva’s composition and colors show the influence of the second generation of Hudson River School artists. Among these artists were Fitz Hugh Lane, Frederic E. Church, Sanford Robinson Gifford, John Frederick Kensett, Alfred Thompson Bricher and Martin Johnson Heade- a group later referred to as the Luminists due to their focus on light and atmosphere.
Silva soon became known for his luminous paintings of coastal scenes from the New England coasts as well as the Long Island and New Jersey shores. Silva was greatly influenced by Lane and Heade. From them, Silva produced seascapes rendered with a calmness, clarity and sensitive handling of light and atmosphere. Silva’s style typically produces a warm glowing composition heightening the detail of his works and infusing them with a timeless feel.
Silva became a member of the American Watercolor Society in 1872. He exhibited his work from 1848 - 1850 at the American Institute, the National Academy of Design from 1868 - 1886, and the Brooklyn Art Association from 1869 - 1885. Silva’s work can be found in prestigious private and public collections including the Peabody Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, and the Brooklyn Museum of Art.
Wilmerding, John, American Light, The Luminist Movement 1850 - 1875, Princeton University Press, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1989.