Director Emeritus Grant Holcomb speaks about this object.
Who would have thought that this most humble, some might say “primitive,” of paintings would be included in a tour of the director’s favorites?
This is not one of the “pilgrimage paintings” that we’ve spoken about; nor is it a painting that demonstrates great technical skill or mastery. The figures seem stiff and awkward and, if you look at the cow in the immediate foreground you will notice that the artist forgot to paint out the original placement of the head before he re-positioning the head within the composition. Yet, perhaps, this is why it elicits a favorable response—this sincere and humble effort to create---to instill within the viewer---a sense of place, as well as a sense of pleasure.
The artist, Joseph Henry Hidley, was born in 1830 and worked in a small village approximately ten miles southeast of Troy, New York. He made his living as a handyman, a house painter, even as a taxidermist. That is, he was not a professional artist.
Yet he painted townscapes for community pride; portraits for personal remembrance; and here, in Landscape with Figures, for daily family pleasure. That is, this picture was built into a home—painted on an interior panel under a window, an inherent part of the domestic architecture.
Waiting to greet each family member was this scene of autumnal contentment (probably copied from a European print)-—an alpine chalet, cows watering in the stream and villagers prospering in this Eden-like community in the wilderness.
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