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The Cover
September 27, 2000


Author Affiliations

The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate, MD, Senior Contributing Editor.

JAMA. 2000;284(12):1485. doi:10.1001/jama.284.12.1485

The American still-life painter Joseph Decker (1853-1924) died of a stroke in the charity ward of a Brooklyn hospital on April 1, 1924. For nearly a decade and a half he had painted nothing; for a quarter of a century more, until 1949, his work would languish, virtually unknown. Only through the efforts of art historians Alfred Frankenstein, Helen Cooper, and William Gerdts and curators at the National Gallery of Art has his work come once more to public attention. An inventory of American paintings compiled by the Smithsonian Institution lists 64 paintings known to have been painted by Decker. (Many are in public collections, others are under restricted ownership, a few remain unlocated, and at least one has been destroyed.) Still, their titles give a good idea of Decker's oeuvre. There are a few genre and landscape scenes—even a couple of seascapes—as well as a portrait of his friend and colleague, the landscape artist George Inness (JAMA covers, September 14, 1994, May 16, 1986, June 14, 1985, September 18, 1981, and December 3, 1973). One of Decker's favorite subjects was his pet squirrel Bonnie, which he often featured among fallen nuts and fall foliage (JAMA cover, October 23/30, 1991). By and large, though, most of Decker's works were still lifes and most depicted fruit: cherries, pears, strawberries, peaches, plums, oranges, russet apples, crabapples, crenshaw melons, and concord grapes. Sometimes, as in Grapes (cover ), the fruit is solo; sometimes several fruits are grouped together (melons, plums, and peaches, in one instance). Sometimes the titles remind one of a grocer's list (Twelve Plums, Twenty-three Pears); other times the titles tell a story (Cherries in a Corner, Apples on a Bough, Peaches Spilling Out of a Basket).