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[AC] Mead Art Museum at Amherst College; [HC] Hampshire College Art Gallery;
[HD] Historic Deerfield; [MH] Mount Holyoke College Art Museum; [MH SK] The Joseph Allen Skinner Museum at Mount Holyoke College; [SC] Smith College Museum of Art; [UM] University Museum of Contemporary Art at UMASS Amherst


Maker(s):Goodwin, Richard La Barre
Culture:American (1840-1910)
Title:Still Life: Dead Birds
Date Made:after 1880
Materials:oil on canvas
Measurements:Stretcher: 18 5/8 in x 14 in; 47.3 cm x 35.6 cm
Accession Number:  AC 1964.136
Credit Line:Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Paul D. Weathers

Label Text:
Acquired by the Mead in 1964 as an anonymous work, this tender, restrained rendering of two vanquished game fowl (likely Northern Bobwhites) hanging from a thread can now be attributed to the still life painter Richard La Barre Goodwin. Goodwin specialized in highly illusionistic depictions of dead game, hanging alone or in pairs and against stark backgrounds, much like the Mead’s picture. The painter’s obsession with these innocent lifeless carcasses gains poignant meaning when considered with regard to his personal history: he was an injured veteran of the Civil War. Thus, Goodwin’s painting may have functioned as a memento mori, a visual metaphor for the brevity of human life. The inclusion of two nearly identical birds joined in death could allude to the Civil War, which divided a once-common people, and then united them in a shared experience of profound loss.

RRG, 2011

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