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Maker(s):Champney, James Wells
Culture:American (1843-1903)
Title:painting: The Common and Street in Deerfield
Date Made:ca. 1877
Materials:oil, canvas, wood, gilding, ink, crayon
Place Made:United States; Massachusetts; Deerfield
Measurements:overall: 18 in x 26 in; 45.72 cm x 66.04 cm
Accession Number:  HD 80.029
Credit Line:Gift of Frances Malone
Museum Collection:  Historic Deerfield

Framed oil painting of Deerfield's Street looking north from the south end of the Common, which is signed "J. Wells Champney" in red on the lower right; and has a paper label on the back, "Size 18 x 26 / sold by / Frost & Adams / Nos. 33a..." and two blue handwritten inscriptions on two stretcher members, one "227" and the other, illegible. Born in Boston, James Wells Champney (1843-1903) served in the 45th Massachusetts Volunteers from 1862-1863 before being invalided out of the army; he then taught drawing at Dr. Dio Lewis's "Young Ladies Seminary" from 1864-1866. After deciding to become a professional artist, Champney moved to Europe where he studied in France with Pierre Edouard Frere (1819-1886), a well-known French realist genre painter; in Antwerp with Joseph Francois Henri Van Lerius (1823-1876); and in Italy. In 1870, Champney returned to Boston where he opened a studio; in 1873, he was commissioned by "Scribner's Monthly Magazine" to illustrate "The Great South; A Record of Journeys in Louisiana, Texas, the Indian Territory, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland," a series of articles on the Reconstruction South by Edward King (1848-1896) where the two travelled more than 25,000 miles and Champney contributed at least 500 illustrations. In 1873, Champney married Elizabeth Johnson Williams (1850-1922), whom he had met at the "Young Ladies Seminary;" she was a graduate of the Vassar class of 1869 who became a popular children's author of her period and many of whose whose works Champney illustrated. Born in Springfield, Ohio, Elizabeth Williams was the half-sister of Orson Bennet Williams (1834-1912) and daughter of Samuel Barnard Williams (1803-1884), originally of Deerfield, whose second wife was Caroline Johnson (d.1885) whom he married in 1844; the granddaughter of Elijah Williams (1767-1832) who married Hannah Barnard (1772-1853), daughter of Samuel Barnard (1721-1788) of Deerfield, in 1803; and great-granddaugher of Dr. Thomas Williams (1718-1775) of Deerfield. In 1876 the Champneys moved into Samuel Barnard Williams' house in Deerfield where Champney built a studio; they lived in Deerfield for several years while he was professor of art at Smith College in Northampton, Mass., and one of the founders of the Smith Art Gallery. In 1879, Champney opened a studio in New York City, and from that time on the Deerfield became their summer home. James and Elizabeth had two children: Edward Frere Champney (1874-1929) who studied art and became an architect, and Maria Mitchell Champney (1876-1906) who was born in Deerfield, married John Sanford Humphreys in 1899, and was a miniature painter. The donor, Frances Malone (1913-2000), was related to Edward Frere Champney by marriage. Her grandparents were the Rev. Francis Lebaron Robbins, Sr. (1830-1920) and Lucy Morton Hartpence Robbins (1856-1935), whose daughter and the donor's aunt, Mary Alice Robbins (1882-1950), married Edward Frere Champney in Greenfield, Massachusetts, in 1923. Miss Malone was the daughter of Mary Alice's sister, Margaret Bradford Robbins (1881-1970) who married Dana Malone in 1909 and lived in Greenfield. From left to right, the scene shows the Civil War Monument dedicated in 1867, the Brick Church built in 1824, people walking along the sidewalk, trees lining both sides of the Street, a horse-drawn cart heading south along the Street, and "The Manse" begun by Joseph Barnard (1717-1790) in 1768. HD has another similar painting (HD 2002.70.1) of the common, also circa 1877.


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