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Maker(s):Allen, Frances and Mary (attributed)
Title:photograph: cows in a stream
Date Made:ca. 1900
Materials:paper, ink
Place Made:United States; Massachusetts; Deerfield?
Accession Number:  HD 2000.15.8
Credit Line:Estate of Frederick Osborne and Thora Lund Stebbins
Museum Collection:  Historic Deerfield

Sepia toned photograph shows several cows in or near a stream, attributed to the Allen Sisters. Beginning in the 1880s, Frances (1854-1941) and Mary (1858-1941) Allen of Deerfield joined other women drawn to the newly accessible field of photography after progressive hearing loss forced both to give up their chosen careers in teaching. The Allen sisters learned their craft through photography journals and photographers summering in Deerfield. Working within social and aesthetic reforms of the Arts and Crafts Movement, they found that Old Deerfield's 18th century houses and furnishings offered an ideal environment for their colonial re-creations, and their family and neighbors further accommodated them by donning period clothes to complete the pictures. The Allens' earliest photographs appear in the 1890s when book and magazine publishers, capitalizing on Colonial Revival interests, soon commissioned photographs of children, country life, and costumed figures. Although romanticized visions of the past are the Allens' best-known photographs, Frances and Mary Allen also mastered less descriptive images with evocative compositions, exquisite tonal values, and innovative use of light in the Pictorial style advocated by eminent photographers such as Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen. These "artistic" images were included in exhibitions such as The Washington Salon and Art Photographic Exhibition, 1896; Third International Congress of Photography, Paris, 1900; Third Philadelphia Photographic Salon, 1900; Canadian Pictorialist Exhibition, Montreal, 1907; and Arts and Crafts 7th Annual Exhibition, The Art Institute of Chicago, 1908. They also travelled to Great Britain in 1908 and California in 1916 where they took photographs quite unlike their New England landscapes. Frances and Mary's active work in photography stopped around 1920, the date of their last catalogue, but they continued to sell photographs from their front parlor until 1935.

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