His Life and Art
Publication Year: 2013
After studying under Alexandre Cabanel at the École des Beaux Arts, Thomas Hovenden (1840-95) began an exemplary career as a painter and teacher at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Along with his contemporaries there, Thomas Eakins and Thomas Anschutz, Hovenden acquired a reputation for being both an influential instructor and a talented artist.
A realistic genre painter and recorder of everyday activities such as those involving home and family, Hovenden had a particular gift for choosing subjects with wide recognition and appeal. His work reflects a Victorian ethos; unlike many artists of the time, however, Hovenden's work featured African American subjects in domestic settings. His firm belief in sentiment and beauty as the goals of artistic pursuits is evident in the nostalgic paintings for which he is best known, such as The Last Moments of John Brown, in which Brown is depicted stopping on his way to the gallows to kiss a young black child.
This first full-length study fosters a greater understanding of Hovenden's gifts as a painter and of his stylistic contribution to art. Chronologically organized, it is both a retrospective of Hovenden's work and a critical biography of the artist. The volume features many of his paintings, studies, and sketches, some reproduced for the first time.
A Barra Foundation Book
Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press
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List of Illustrations
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Acclaimed during his lifetime but slowly forgotten after his early death, the painter Thomas Hovenden (1840–95) took an artistic path quite different from those of his peers who are well known today. He specialized in narrative scenes of domestic rural life. Most of his pictures ....
Chapter 1. Becoming an Artist
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Thomas Hovenden’s calling to become an artist and the themes of transition and the cycles of life that permeate his work stem from his childhood in Ireland. Orphaned at a young age, Hovenden experienced loss and longing from which he ....
Chapter 2. From “Picturesque” Brittany to Paris: Painting Courage and Romance in History and Legend
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After studying under Cabanel and working in Paris, Hovenden felt prepared to meet the highest artistic standards and, having reached his middle thirties, some urgency to pursue his career as a professional. In the summer of 1875,...
Chapter 3. “What Shall American Artists Paint?”
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The years following Hovenden’s return to the United States from France in 1880 were filled with major life changes for the artist, both professional and personal. Hovenden was a prominent member of a group of artists who came home...
Chapter 4. Painting the “Good Ole Times”: Scenes of African American Life
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Among his popular American themes of the 1880s, Hovenden created a significant group of paintings of African Americans. His subject matter, working methods, and compositions parallel the artist’s endeavors in his earlier Pont-Aven...
Chapter 5. Images to “Appeal to the National Mind”
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While most of Hovenden’s works from the 1880s and early 1890s center on domestic genre themes, the artist also explored subjects from American history in several significant paintings of the period.Writing soon after the end of the Civil...
Chapter 6. Home Life: Center of “Our Joys or Sorrows”
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Hovenden’s interest in depicting the home life of ordinary people culminated in the production of some of his best-known and most popular paintings in the early 1890s. Nearly half of Hovenden’s major works—his most complex in figural and...
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One windy winter afternoon following a snowstorm in early February 1895, Hovenden gave a lecture at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts titled “What Is the Purpose of Art?” It followed a series of lectures given there by John...
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Page Count: 296
Publication Year: 2013