Executed a decade after Oller’s second Parisian sojourn, this painting demonstrates how he blended European painting with uniquely Puerto Rican subject matter and light effects. In this lush tropical scene, he captured the dappled light of the Caribbean in a loose, Impressionist-inspired style. He depicted a ceiba (silk-cotton tree) under which the indigenous Taíno had worshipped in the days prior to the first contact with Europeans. This tree still stands in the Puerto Rican city of Ponce.
The work features daily life (women washing clothes in the river) while referencing a historically and spiritually charged site on the island, thereby reinforcing the painter’s intense identification with the place of his birth.
Francisco Oller (Puerto Rican, 1833–1917) Old Ceiba Tree at Ponce, 1887–88. Museo de Arte de Ponce, Puerto Rico, The Luis A. Ferré Foundation, Inc.