Very little is currently known about the still-life painter, George W. Seavey (1841-1913). Maybelle Mann’s Art in Florida, 1999, suggests that Seavey came to St. Augustine in 1883, the year of financier and hotel magnate “Henry Flagler’s first visit” to America’s oldest city. And while Maybelle Mann misses the date by one year – Flagler arrived in 1882 – she does mention George W. Seavey in her discussion of Flagler. Later, after the construction of the Ponce de Leon Hotel and its suite of artist’s studios, managed by Seavey’s brother, Osborne, George Washington Seavey settled in as one of the seasonal resident artists at the Ponce.Sandra Barghini, in her elegant publication, A Society of Painters, Flagler’s St. Augustine Art Colony, 1998, notes that both of the Seavey brothers were from New England and that George also maintained a studio/workshop in the “Studio Building” in Boston and a studio near the Maplewood Hotel in Bethlehem, New Hampshire.
Barghini notes that Seavey was one of the most popular painters at the Ponce de Leon Hotel where Flagler had Seavey’s work hung in the Hotel’s grand parlors. Barghini also includes quotations from the St. Augustine Tatler newspaper of March 31, 1894, praising Seavey as worthy of “attention” and “delightful.”
George W. Seavey was a floral still-life painter of considerable talent and dash. He specialized in bright and colorful renditions of flowers often shipped from the North to Flagler’s hotels via his railroads. At the Ponce de Leon, while Seavey painted roses, violets, peonies and pansies, he specialized in renditions of chrysanthemums, a species of perennial flowering plants from the family Asteraceae, that were natives of Asia and northeastern Europe.
Whether Seavey was capitalizing on the Flagler’s love of this Chinese and Japanese Imperial flower and its association with wealth and power, or the commonly held 19th Century belief that the chrysanthemum helped clean the system when drunk as tea, and rid the air of pollutants as it helped repel insects, Seavey painted these colorful and vibrant blooms hundreds of times while in residence at the Ponce. His style of relaxed colorful realism made these flower paintings popular, but expensive, tourist souvenirs as they were carried throughout the United States by departing guests.