Research Curator Marjorie Searl speaks about this object.
This is Marjorie Searl speaking about Home Late by Mortimer Smith.
Mortimer Smith's painting Home Late, discussed by Marjorie Searl:
Sometimes we need a reminder to slow down and look carefully as we walk through a museum. Home Late gives us that reminder, and rewards us by revealing more of itself the longer we look. Because the painting is so dark, when we first look at it we see only the two figures, a father sitting in a chair lighting his pipe with a coal from the fire, and a child in the doorway. The cozy interior of the log cabin, painted in warm colors that reflect the glowing hearth, stands in sharp contrast with the icy blue exterior seen through the window and the door.
Just as the child’s eyes will need to accustom themselves to the shadowy interior, we need to give our eyes time to accommodate to the lack of illumination in parts of the painting. Soon, we can start to discern what else is in the room, and find clues about the daily lives of this family and the essentials of frontier life. As the images emerge, we begin to see pets, food, and even a basket of yarn that suggests the presence of a mother who may be beyond the frame of the painting, preparing the evening meal.
Winter scenes were favorites of the artist, who spent most of his adult life in Michigan, where the cold weather arrived early and stayed late. While Mortimer Smith was clearly a very skillful painter, he earned his living as an architect, not surprising as we see how carefully delineated are the structural elements of the small room…the floor, the walls, the rafters. His obituary stated, “His pencil made him a livelihood, his brush made his life beautiful.”
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