Friday, February 17, 2012

ism of the Week - week 1

Each week during our current exhibition, ...isms: Unlocking Art's Mysteries, we will post deeper insight into one of the paintings on view. Past the credit line, past the exhibition label, Assistant Curator Amanda Burdan shares her thoughts:

Stephen Howard’s painting Judge Marvin’s Barn draws attention to an ancient building in Lyme. The Marvin homestead was the subject of a feature article in the New London Day in 1937, shortly before Howard moved to Lyme, celebrating the many generations of Marvins who had lived there since it was built in 1788. Located on Nickerson Hill, the highest elevation in all of New London County, the farm was said to have been visited by President Andrew Jackson, who stopped to water his horses after crossing the Connecticut River on Ely’s ferry.

Although this painting appears in the exhibition in a section on Regionalism, the attention to a local historic property also shares some of the sensibilities of Historicism. By looking back from his twentieth century point of view, Howard suggests a nostalgia for a New England of the past, of which the Marvin farm was emblematic. Rather than rendering the barn as it might have looked in a bygone era, Howard’s realism offers a dilapidated structure and an ominous sky. The implied elegy for colonial days and agrarian ways was not uncommon for artists during the Great Depression.

Stephen Howard (1912–2010)

Judge Marvin’s Barn

Oil on canvas
Florence Griswold Museum

Gift of Mrs. Janet C. Davis in honor of the Centennial

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