Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts is pleased to announce the acquisition of three
outstanding examples of American historical painting using funds bequeathed by
Miss Ida Belle Young. The Ida Belle Young Art Acquisition Fund was established
in 2007 with the bequest of Miss Ida Belle Young’s estate to support the
Museum’s collection by the purchase of outstanding examples of traditional
American art. This acquisition
follows that of the painting Francoise in
Green, Sewing by Mary Cassatt, which was acquired in 2009. The most recent
acquisitions are George Henry Durrie’s Holidays
in the Country, The Cider Party (1853), William Sidney Mount’s Any Fish Today? (1857), and Eastman
Johnson’s Girl in Landscape with Two
Lambs (1875). Each of these
works is a highly representative example of nineteenth-century American genre
painting, and will be introduced to the public at the Museum from Tuesday,
April 5 through Friday, April 22.
years of greatest prominence for American genre painting were between 1830 and
the mid-1860s. Derived from the Northern European tradition of “scenes of daily
life,” genre painting in the nineteenth century reflected the social, cultural
and political environment, and the upheavals that characterized American
society in the years before, during and after the Civil War.
Henry Durrie (1820-1863) was known primarily for views of the landscape around his
home in New Haven, Connecticut, and he found greatest success with scenes of
the rural countryside covered in winter snow that were later published by the
firm of Currier and Ives. Holidays in the Country, The Cider Party is a traditional
mid-nineteenth century genre painting filled with the details that convey a central
narrative. In this case, the symbols
and activities of the humans and the animals in the painting have been
interpreted by scholars as a visual commentary on the social debate and
unsettled political situation in the years prior to the Civil War.
Sidney Mount (1807-1868) served as an inspiration for artists such as Durrie,
achieving wide popular success as a painter of scenes of everyday American
rural life. Any Fish Today? is typical of Mount’s approach, capturing the
evolving nature of American society as its focus transitioned from country to
city. Mount’s young peddler of fish summarizes an era when both commerce and
the dignity of honest labor were idealized as the essence of American
character. The young man’s neat dress and the classical composition, his figure
framed by the door open to the world beyond, convey the boy’s importance as a
symbol of an orderly and prosperous society.
Eastman Johnson (1824-1906) was the heir to the traditions of artists such as
Mount and Durrie, painting after the Civil War for a society that was coming to
grips with the upheaval wrought by the War and its aftermath. Images such as Girl in Landscape with Two Lambs addressed the Post-Civil War
America’s nostalgia for the wholesomeness of rural life and the countryside
still unspoiled by the rise of urbanization and industrialization.
works are significant documents, both of the art historical tradition of genre
painting, as well as a record of the socio-political climate of nineteenth-century
America. As such, they will serve as an outstanding educational resource with
the Museum’s exhibition and teaching programs for years to come.