As indicated on the back of a still-life painting in the hands of Childs Gallery, A. B. Engstrom was born in Arondal, Norway and emigrated to Philadelphia where he specialized in still life painting. He exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy from 1829 to 1845, at the National Academy of Design from 1843 to 1846 and in Philadelphia at the Artists' Fund Society and the Franklin Institute in the 1830s and 1840s.
In his book American Still Life Painting, William H. Gerdts says, "Still-life paintings by various members of the Peale family were exhibited in the major artistic centers of nineteenth century America. The widespread exposure of their paintings helped to establish their pre-eminence in this genre in the first quarter of the century and created a tradition that was to last virtually into the twentieth century. Ö James' still-life paintings fall into two categories: fruits or vegetable piled on a tabletop, and fruit overflowing from a Chinese-export porcelain basket or shallow dish. He always presented his subjects frontally, before a diagonally illuminated background."
When James Peale died in 1831 in Philadelphia, Engstrom had already been exhibiting in that city for two years. Whether Engstrom had met or perhaps studied with Peale is not known, but it is clear that he was influenced in his choice of still life painting in general and in his particular approach to fruit paintings by James Peale's pictures. In "Still-Life with Plate of Fruit", Engstrom painted more than a copy of James Peale's picture; he painted a tribute as indicated by the exacting inscription on the reverse: " The Original Picture by James Peale in the 76th / year of his Age, 1825 and Coppyed by A B. Engstrom [for John Sartain] / from Arondal in Norway / Philadelphia April 30, 1845."
The inscription does more than just honor Peale, however. For the first time it gives Engstrom's origins in Norway and it tells that Still-Life with Plate of Fruit was painted for John Sartain. Sartain was the most successful engraver in Philadelphia of his time. Sartain was also an immigrant, having been born in London in 1808 and moved to Philadelphia in 1830. He was very active in the art life of Philadelphia, serving as an officer of the Pennsylvania academy and the Artists' Fund Society. Later he was in charge of the art department of the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876.