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Maker(s):Elmer, Edwin Romanzo
Culture:American (1850 - 1923)
Title:Mourning Picture
Date Made:1890
Materials:oil on canvas
Place Made:United States; Massachusetts
Measurements:stretcher: 27 15/16 x 36 in.; 70.9613 x 91.44 cm
Narrative Inscription:  unsigned, undated
Accession Number:  SC 1953.129
Credit Line:Purchased
Museum Collection:  Smith College Museum of Art

Currently on view

large green lawn with hills and trees in distance, blue sky with puffy white clouds overhead, child in striped dress, large white lace collar, long wavy hair and bangs holding the collar of a white lamb, small cat at lower left, doll carriage with doll and child's straw hat with red ribbon at front center, large clapboard house painted green at back right with a man and woman dressed in mourning black seated in chairs on lawn in front of it, man holding paper and wearing bowler hat, woman holding her knitting, all figures with somber expressions; death/mourning; costume/uniform; girl; man; woman; landscape; toy; animal; portrait; outdoor

Label Text:
Elmer, a native of Ashfield, Massachusetts, painted this portrait of himself, his wife Mary and daughter Effie in front of the house he had built with his brother Samuel in the neighboring town of Buckland. Effie had died the previous winter at the age of nine. It is unusual to find portraits of both the living and the dead in one composition; here the likenesses of the sitters were based on several studio photographs. Untitled by the artist, the painting came to be known as the "Mourning Picture" in the 1950s, when works by Elmer were being rediscovered. The meticulous rendering of details in this painting suggests that Elmer was familiar with the works of the English artist Thomas Farrer, a follower of the art critic John Ruskin and a leading proponent of the Pre-Raphaelite movement in America. Farrer, in fact, gave art lessons in Ashfield in 1865 when Elmer was in his teens. The pattern of cracks in the clouds was an unintentional effect caused by the faster drying of the upper layer of paint, which contained less oil than the layer below.

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