Editor's note: The following essay was reprinted in Resource Library on July 16, 2008 with permission of the Hudson River Museum. If you have questions or comments regarding the text, or wish to obtain a copy of the exhibition catalogue from which it is excerpted, please contact the Hudson River Museum directly through either this phone number or web address:


Domestic Bliss: Family Life in American Painting: 1840-1910

by Lee M. Edwards



Domestic Bliss: Family Life in American Painting, 1840-1910 takes a fresh look at American genre painting from the second half of the nineteenth century and the early years of the twentieth, an era when industrial and technical innovations were changing society irrevocably. The exhibition, using paintings with home and family motifs, interprets these subjects not just for the information they impart about the stylistic and thematic concerns of the period, but also for their insights into particular social and cultural phenomena. Although rooted in the genre traditions of European art, these scenes of Victorian America typically reveal the optimism and nationalism fueled by the democratic experience in this country.

With their primary emphases on feeling and emotional response rather than objective confrontation with everyday realities, the images of domestic harmony in this exhibition invite reflection not only on what the artists and their patrons (and by extension the public at large) chose to deny, but on why. A multi-faceted thematic approach is used to discuss life at home for urban, rural, and black families as well as courtship and marriage rituals, the cult of domesticity, and children in the child-centered nineteenth-century family. Thus, in order to explore the hidden implications of "domestic bliss" through these paintings, questions about the broader aspects of daily experience, using the artist as a mirror of his times, are asked. Such images take on new levels of meaning when looked at, not as statements of an era obsessed with sentiment and superficial excess, but rather as expressions of a complex and increasingly fragmented society.



"Home gives a certain serenity to the mind, so that everything is well marked, and sparkling in a clear atmosphere." [1]

Throughout the long history of the art of painting, artists have depicted scenes of home and family life. Double marriage portraits survive from the days of ancient Rome, as do wall paintings that show furnished domestic interiors and scenes of children at play. In the Middle Ages, illustrations concerned with the family -- for example, in the illuminated manuscripts called Books of Hours -- focused on adult courtship rituals and community activities; scenes including children were rare. At the continual mercy of epidemic disease, famine, and war during these harsh centuries, families were structured so that primary loyalties were to manorial ties and the welfare of the community as a whole, rather than the individual family unit. The high infant mortality rates contributed to parents' reluctance to become overly attached to their children, who, in early childhood, were generally placed into apprenticeships or some other kind of service with a different family.

During the Renaissance, the family most commonly depicted in art was a symbolic one -- the infant Christ with his parents, Mary and Joseph. The tenderness and spiritual devotion conveyed by these images of the Holy Family are alluded to in numerous similarly constructed secular scenes of later periods to comprise allegories of the ideal of family love.

By the seventeenth century, ties to a predominantly communal life were loosened, and what we now think of as the modern family began to emerge. With more emphasis on the rights of the individual, and greater opportunity for privacy within the home, the favored family unit became that of a husband and wife who lived together over a lifetime, and who nurtured their children, and participated in their education and preparation for the future."[2] While artists were frequently commissioned by the nobility to execute family groups and paired marriage portraits often posed in luxurious settings, the Dutch seventeenth-century genre artists -- painters of scenes from everyday life -- were among the first to honor the simpler pleasures of peasant and middle-class home life. The relatively low cost of these latter works of art resulted in a changing patronage, and a new class of art buyer emerged. As subtle mirrors of social change, many of these paintings celebrated material wellbeing and glorified the Protestant ethos of family and marriage that scholars and visitors to Holland noted at the time. The home had become a "secular temple" of beauty, serenity, cleanliness and order, an ideal retreat from the hectic entrepreneurial world of trade." [3]

In the eighteenth century, artists such as William Hogarth in England and Jean-Baptiste Greuze in France used images of family life (via the popular prints made from them) to educate the public about the dangers of laziness and immorality. The didacticism of such works, combined with an often complex narrative, was inherited from Dutch examples of the previous century. It was also an important ingredient of genre painting in the Victorian period, when images of home and family life were extremely popular. Walter Dendy Sadler's Home Sweet Home (fig. 1) is a typical example of the type of imagery that dominated the annual exhibitions and sale rooms in Britain during Queen Victoria's reign (1837-1901). In Sadler's picture, a well-to-do middle-class family celebrates Christmas together; the mistletoe hanging from the ceiling and the holly on the mantle indicate the season. Through grandparents seated serenely by the hearth, and grandchildren carolling with their parents, the artist has conceived an ideal happy family, a sentimental symbol of an age that could take as its supreme example the domestic fulfillment of its Queen, her consort Prince Albert, and their large royal brood.

The cult of domesticity pervasive in Victorian Britain found similar expression in America. The two great English-speaking powers of the nineteenth century maintained a close relationship from about 1840, and there was a lively cultural exchange that flowed in both directions."[4] Three of the most successful painters of American domestic genre in the second half of the nineteenth century -- John George Brown, Seymour Joseph Guy, and Thomas Hovenden -- emigrated to the United States from Britain as young adults, Their work was exhibited abroad in the 1870s and 1880s, and a long essay on Brown was published in an English art periodical in 1882.[5]

Like its English counterpart, the culture of domesticity in America was espoused in popular songs, prints and magazines, religious tracts and advice manuals, as well as in literature and the arts. The middle class was the primary audience; its domination of America's cultural and economic life was assured after about 1830 as the growth of cities and rapid industrialization resulted in greater levels of prosperity, The strong moral and religious underpinnings that bolstered middle-class life could make strict adherence to its code formidable and crippling. In literature, for example, novels such as The Story of Avis (1877) by Elizabeth Stuart Phelps and The Awakening (1899) by Kate Chopin, are centered on marital dissatisfaction and tedious domestic routine, while the sordid implications of infidelity are a sub-text in Henry James's Portrait of a Lady (1881) and Edith Wharton's House of Mirth (1905). In William Dean Howell's A Modern Instance (1881), Bartley Hubbard feels stifled by the cloying domesticity of his marriage and longs for the liberty of his bachelorhood. Though divorce itself was the ultimate threat to the family code, a play by Augustine Daly called Divorce (1871) was one of the hits of the day when it was performed in the major Eastern cities, and it was revived continually till the end of the century.

Depictions of family breakdown are much rarer in domestic genre painting, a reflection of the idealizing tendencies of the American genre tradition as a whole. Nevertheless, a few images, for example Eastman Johnson's Not at Home (c. 1872, The Brooklyn Museum), and Edmund Tarbell's The Breakfast Room (cat. no. 10), evoke the living styles of the upper classes in domestic spaces resonant with tension. In a similar vein, the sophisticated ennui of the elegantly-dressed couple in William Merritt Chase's An Open Air Breakfast (c. 1888, Toledo Museum of Art) masks a lovers' quarrel. On a different economic level, the couple in Thomas Waterman Wood's The Drunkard's Wife (fig. 2) painted in 1887, provides an urban contrast to the blissful scenes of rural family life which comprise the bulk of this artist's oeuvre. The painting might well have served as a poster for the active temperance movement of the period, for it depicts a woman angrily confronting a tavern-keeper as she points to the body of her drunken husband collapsed in the gutter.

Perhaps the most poignant examples of family dysfunction in American art are two works by the German-born painters Charles Ulrich (1858-1908) and Robert Koehler (1850-1917). Ulrich's In the Land of Promise -- Castle Garden (fig. 3) of 1884 is one of the few significant paintings on the subject of emigration to America. The expressive potency of the composition with its weary-looking figures and large-scale realism underlines the trauma suffered by families uprooted from their homelands for economic or political reasons. Impending disaster to the structure of a working class family is implicit in The Strike (fig. 4) by Robert Koehler, a compelling painting of early industrial strife in America. Koehler makes it clear that in an era of few unemployment benefits, the innocent victims of such a struggle are the women and children: the woman in the center of the painting actively pleads against her husband's commitment to his fellow workers and their cause; a mother and her two children wanly observe the action in the left foreground.

While the work of artists like Ulrich and Koehler shares the social awareness of European naturalism, American genre painters generally ignored the darker side of life, preferring instead the idyllic, the sentimental, or the nostalgic. Besides, a painting was a costly purchase, and American art patrons here, often self-made men themselves, were not likely to buy for their living room walls a perpetual reminder of life's harsher realities. The optimism and self-confidence that was a national by-product of "the land of promise," that Eden of boundless opportunity that was America, was captured prior to the Civil War on the canvases of painters like William Sidney Mount (cat. no. 50) and Jerome Thompson (cat. no. 20), whose work appealed to a large public. Art lovers at that time were willing to pay high prices for American genre painting, and print-makers like Currier and Ives and Louis Prang sold reproductions of the most popular works. Later in the century the nationalistic conventions of the old American genre tradition were continued in scenes of home life by artists such as Thomas Hovenden (cat. no. 33), Edward Lamson Henry (cat. nos. 26, 27), and William Henry Lippincott (cat. nos. 46, 47).

Nevertheless, by the 1870s the market for contemporary American paintings had diminished. Many American artists had already begun their exodus to the European art academies for training that exposed them to different aesthetic values and imagery that moved beyond mere story-telling. In addition, patrons travelled abroad and began to import European art by such favorites as William Bouguereau, Jules Breton, and Ludwig Knaus. Bouguereau's slick compositions, for example, which often depicted idealized peasant families and wide-eyed melancholic children, enjoyed enormous stature among America's new millionaires."[6] American artists who felt the financial pinch of changing taste could only protest the invasion of this "foreign stuff."[7]

However, there still remained a small but loyal band of American patrons and promoters who were particularly fond of the native product, and who supported it during its general period of neglect through the end of the nineteenth century.[8] In fact, as the many pictures in this exhibition demonstrate, the vogue for American genre painting, particularly imagery centered on home-loving values and idyllic domestic scenes, seems scarcely to have abated. Its survival was assured, in part, because, like so much of the European art preferred by American patrons, it too spoke to the general taste for domestic sentiment and pictorial narrative. The American public had little enthusiasm for the idea of "art for art's sake" and the aesthetics of the New Movement that confronted them in the 1870s. As the critic for the New York Daily Tribune wrote in 1877:

Pictures that tell stories will, for a long while to come, be ... popular in America . . . . A thoroughly good piece of genre painting is almost always bought as soon as exhibited, especially when it shows a certain amount of technical realism. It is not strange, therefore, that a constantly increasing proportion of our younger artists should turn to this field of performance.[9]

While the majority of the artists in this exhibition had at least some training in Europe, they typically preferred to paint scenes that endorsed the American way of life, particularly the codes of behavior governing domestic interplay. The positive advantages of life in a democratic society were overtly expressed. Nonetheless, the hypocrisy smoldering beneath its cheerful facade quietly surfaced, albeit on admittedly rare occasions.


The Family Circle

By the early nineteenth century, "Home" was less a place of family productivity (farming, crafts, weaving) and more a sanctuary or protective barrier against the pressures of an increasingly competitive and often ruthless world of work.[10]. Illustrations such as The Happy Family (fig. 5), which appeared in 1843 in Miss Leslie's Magazine, a popular monthly aimed at the female reader, underscore the symbolic role of the family as a stable force in a society undergoing irrevocable change, as well as the different social roles of family members. The husband/father whose labor on the "outside" has entitled him to the security and repose of the charmed domestic circle pictured here, is the object of an adoring wife and children, one of whom kneels before him in awe. Even the family dog in the foreground strikes a fawning pose. Likewise, in Domestic Felicity (cat. no. 1) by William E. Winner, an affectionate couple and their children are embraced by the pristine beauty of the landscape behind them. They exemplify the perfect family, isolated, in this instance, in an Edenic retreat far from the cares of urban reality.

In the prosperous decade following the Civil War, family group portraits, often posed in luxurious interiors, enjoyed a fashionable vogue. Edward Lamson Henry and Eastman Johnson were two of the artists who excelled in this genre and who responded to commissions from wealthy and socially prominent patrons. Perhaps the most celebrated work of this type is The Hatch Family (fig. 6), painted by Eastman Johnson in 1871. Alfrederick Smith Hatch, who commissioned the painting, was a successful Wall Street businessman. The Hatches, their eleven children, and Mr. Hatch's mother-in-law and father are pictured in the library of their home at Thirty-seventh Street and Park Avenue in New York. As Nicolaus Mills has observed, they are "literally enveloped by the luxury around them."[11] Unlike such works as George Henry Story's "Our Father who art in Heaven" (cat. no. 5), with its message of family piety, or Aaron Draper Shattuck's The Shattuck Family, with Grandmother, Mother, and Baby William (cat. no. 2), an homage to the timelessness of family affection, Johnson's Hatch Family pays tribute as much to opulent domestic trappings as to the concerns of a caring family. Its combination of portraiture and genre with informally posed figures set in home surroundings is derived from the traditions of the eighteenth-century conversation piece.

As documents of the furnishings of a richly appointed house of the time, paintings like the Hatch Family also underscore the growing importance of interior decoration in a society that was becoming more consumer-oriented and urban (see cat. nos. 8, 9). Magazines like Godey's Ladies Book, Woman's Home Companion, and The Household had advice columns for women on choosing the proper furnishings, wallpapers, and color schemes. In addition, illustrated home-decorating books such as Clarence Cook's House Beautiful (1878) and Harriet Spofford's Art Decoration Applied to Furniture (1879) were two of many issued by important publishing houses. The furnished clutter of most Victorian homes, cozily filled with visual follies and a multitude of patterns, also served as another reminder of the separate spheres of responsibility in middle-class family life in the nineteenth century. Home decor, with its comforting abundance of ornament, was a feminine counterpart to the bare, bureaucratic spaces that often comprised the male work place.

Home-building handbooks in the early nineteenth century were usually illustrated with Greek Revival styles that a skilled carpenter could modify according to the new home buyer's wishes. By the 1840s the Gothic was the dominant revival mode, a response in part to the advocacy of the "Christian Home" or ideal rural cottage, which, unlike the pagan temple style of Greek Revival, fitted the moral and religious temper of the times.[12] The great popularizer of the country home situated away from the tempting vices and stresses of the city was Andrew Jackson Downing, whose Cottage Residences, published in 1842, went through many editions for decades. His work stimulated the demand for builders' guides and pattern books, and attractive housing became easier to build and more available to a wider range of economic levels. The three most basic styles advocated by Downing were the Gothic Revival cottage, the Italianate villa, and the bracketed mode, so named because of the wooden supports visible under projecting eaves. Home ownership, which not only carried with it the mark of status and success but also exemplified the family values cherished by the middle class, became increasingly important by the middle of the nineteenth century.[13] Summer Residence with Croquet Players (cat. no. 14) painted around 1870 by an unknown American artist, is a portrait of a house built in the Italianate style. An eclectic mix, with its bracketed roof, oddly shaped tower, and columned veranda, the design of the house permitted an airy participation with nature (the sea is visible at the right) without succumbing to its discomforts. Pictured at the left of the painting are a couple and two of their children playing croquet. A fashionable family sport that was particularly popular in the 1870s, it was the subject of countless illustrations.[14] A child with his dogs stands at the center of the picture, and an older couple on the porch enjoy the view. The image of the house seems to dominate the painting, but a balance is achieved by the actively engaged figures. We are reminded again that "Home" and "Family" were inseparable symbols, havens of stability in a rapidly changing society.


The Rural Family

With the cities expanding so quickly -- for example New York's population tripled from 1840 to 1870 -- and farm communities, particularly in the Northeast, losing population as factory and mill produce exceeded the value of agriculture's yield, the old rural way of life became an important, albeit nostalgic, subject in the visual arts. Although an agrarian economy still prospered in the Midwest, its passing in the Northeast elicited responses that bordered on the tragic. Here is a typical example from a story written in 1858:

High on a bleak and barren hill ... stands the old meeting house of North Parish. Once upon a time it was the nucleus of a flourishing country village ... no less than three 'stores' made it a place of commercial importance. But this Augustan age has passed forever. In the valleys about, thriving factory villages have sprung up, and business has slid down into them.[15]

Despite urban expansion, many could recall growing up on farms, and the stressful ways of the city (witness the rage for rural cottages mentioned earlier) encouraged a yearning for less complex times:

Far away beyond the glamor of the city and its strife,
There's a quiet little homestead by the sea.
Where a tender, loving lassie used to live a happy life,
As contented in her home as she could be.[16]
ran the poignant lyrics of one popular song.

Rural nostalgia is typified by Jerome Thompson's painting The Old Oaken Bucket (fig. 7). It was inspired by Samuel Woodworth's famous poem, "The Old Oaken Bucket" (1818), a reminiscence of Woodworth's own boyhood on the family farm and Thompson painted the first of two versions in 1860. Sketches of the old Woodworth homestead in Scituate, Massachusetts, made years earlier by the artist who was a family friend, served as the model for the cottage in the painting. The figure of the young Woodworth, pictured at the well with his sister, was based on a childhood likeness.[17] In 1867, Thompson was commissioned by the owner of the Fifth Avenue Art Galleries, Addington Frye, to paint a second version of The Old Oaken Bucket for reproduction as a chromolithograph. In a series of exhibitions to promote sales of the prospective chromo, the painting created a sensation wherever it was shown. One glowing report went so far as to declare that "The Old Oaken Bucket has met with a greater success than any picture ever exhibited in this country, and will long be remembered by the many thousands who have seen it."[18] Thompson's conscious look backwards to a pristine ideal, with its rustic family cottage and attractive children is one of many images of this type -- Currier and Ives, for example, published more than 350 hand-colored lithographs of farm and village scenes. One of the print firm's biggest sellers was Home to Thanksgiving (1867) based on a painting by George Henry Durrie (1820-1863). It depicts an affluent young man (he is dressed in the clothes of urban prosperity) returning to celebrate the holiday with his parents, who greet him on the porch of their picturesque, snow-covered farm-house.[19] On another level, the popularity of such imagery may also be attributed to the search for tangible ideals in a nation that needed to heal itself after the divisive horrors of the Civil War. When Thompson painted a companion to The Old Oaken Bucket, the now lost Home Sweet Home (1869), John Howard Payne's inspirational poem to which Thompson's picture paid homage was regarded as a patriotic hymn, "one that binds not only individuals and families, but States and nations together."[20]

Farm activities in the nineteenth century generally involved entire families, and artists often represented them in harvest scenes such as haying, apple gathering, and cider-making, though strenuous labor was rarely shown. In Eastman Johnson's Corn Husking (cat. no. 22), the farmer in the center of the painting is a heroic figure pursuing his tasks in the time-honored traditional way; an old man at the left shows his granddaughter how to braid corn. The obvious parallel between the cycle of life and the productivity of the land is underscored by the courting couple at the right who gaze fondly at one another. Another annual harvest ritual is depicted by Tompkins Harrison Matteson in Sugaring Off (cat. no. 19), an amusing scene of elegantly dressed city couples who, with some children, have visited a maple sugar camp in the countryside.

While most images of rural family life in America are nostalgic renderings of an idyllic past, Breaking Home Ties (fig. 8) by Thomas Hovenden, painted in 1890, offers a more objective view. The economic realities of life on small family farms by the end of the nineteenth century meant that many young people had to seek their fortune in the burgeoning cities and factory towns. The painting shows a mother bidding a reluctant and probably final farewell to her city-bound son. The sadness of the occasion is underlined by the gloomy expressions on the faces of the other figures in the bare kitchen interior, and the dark, mournful colors. Breaking Home Ties found enormous popular appeal because the sentiments it expressed tugged at the very heartstrings of the Victorian family code. Reproductions of the painting were sold well into the twentieth century.[21] When it was shown at the National Academy of Design's annual New York exhibition in 1891 it was praised as "the most important figure piece in the exhibition ... a masterly canvas,[22] and the artist achieved international recognition with its success at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893. Interestingly, although Hovenden's painting comments on a contemporary American social problem, it may well have served as a metaphor for his own youthful experiences when, as a young man, he left the family farm in County Cork, Ireland, to seek his own fortune in America.


Courtship and Marriage

Courting couples in the nineteenth century were subjected to all kinds of rules, and the fine line between proper and improper behavior often caused conflict between what was expected of them and what they truly felt. In Catharine Beecher's book, Truth Stranger than Fiction (1859), honor in matters of love is revealed as a double standard that affected expectations for both sexes:

By the construction of nature, by the ordinance of Providence, by the training of the family and school, by the influence of society, and by the whole current of poetry and literature, woman is educated to feel that a happy marriage is the summit of all earthly felicity, and yet by a fantasy of custom, it has become one of the most disgraceful of all acts for a woman to acknowledge that she is seeking to attain that felicity. On the contrary, she is trained to all sorts of concealments and subterfuges, to make it appear as if it was a matter to which she is perfectly indifferent, and such is the influence of custom and high cultivation, that the more delicate, refined, and self-respecting a woman becomes, the more acute is the suffering inflicted, by any imputation of her delicacy in this respect."[23]

While Beecher's courting code is paralyzingly genteel, contemporary letters and diaries suggest that despite the "rules," courting couples in America actually enjoyed far greater freedom than was formerly supposed."[24] Unlike their English counterparts, the American courting couple's social activity was usually unchaperoned, the exception being the urban elite who, possibly in emulation of the more rigid class system that prevailed on the other side of the Atlantic, adopted this practice in the late nineteenth century.

Mutual affection rather than income was the usual foundation for marriage, though parental approval could be problematic if a son's or daughter's choice of a future mate did not measure up. However in Now or Never (fig. 9) painted in 1849 by Tompkins Harrison Matteson, the woman being courted seems reluctant to marry at all. While her anxious suitor hovers by her side, an open window, a traditional metaphor for freedom, seems to be the object of her attentions. The young woman's parents in the background anxiously await the news, for her decision to marry will mean one less pair of hands to ease the domestic burden in their own household. In another painting focusing on choice, Francis William Edmond's The City and the Country Beaux (1840, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute) offers a wry comment on the suitability of a mate for a young farm girl who must decide between the crude country bumpkin seated at her left, and the slickly-mannered city suitor on her right. In one of a series of amusing pictures of late nineteenth-century courting procedures by George Hand Wright, the apprehensive suitor depicted in An Unpropitious Moment (cat. no. 31) realizes that he has chosen the wrong time to ask for a daughter's hand: father is laid up with a bandaged foot.

By the 1880s, greater opportunities for middle class women to participate in athletics meant that courting couples could be alone together hiking, bicycling, playing tennis or croquet, and so on. Indoors, music making was a popular pursuit for couples seeking time alone: in John George Brown's The Music Lesson (fig, 10) painted in 1870, a genteel couple surreptitiously flirt while they attempt to master the intricacies of the flute.

While the narrative component of wedding scenes offered unlimited opportunities for artists, Douglas Volk's After the Reception (cat, no. 32), painted in 1887, is more concerned with mood than anecdote. Here the pensive expression of the weary bride might also symbolize the uncertainty and mixed feelings that often accompany that ultimate "plunge" into marriage. Although most women in Victorian America expected to marry, if only because opportunities for satisfying work outside the home were severely limited, obedience to the strictures of ideal wifely behavior, which emphasized piety, submissiveness, and self-sacrifice, often exacted a toll.


"Baby is King": Woman's Mission

Motherhood acquired mythic dimensions in the child-centered family of nineteenth-century America as it became synonymous with the guardianship of morality, religious education, and cultural advancement. Exalted as woman's destiny, it was a favorite subject in home magazines, popular poems, songs and books, as well as in the visual arts. An excerpt from a moralizing text by Harriet Beecher Stowe and her sister Catharine, written in 1869, illustrates the near-Biblical esteem in which mothers were held:

The family state then, is the aptest earthly illustration of the heavenly kingdom, and in it woman is its chief minister. Her great mission is self-denial, in training its members to self-sacrificing labors for the ignorant and weak: if not her own children, then the neglected children of her Father in Heaven... All the pleasures of this life end here; but those who train immortal minds are to reap the fruit of their labor through eternal ages.[25]

In Colonial America, child-rearing manuals directed nearly all their advice to father, the principal authority in matters pertaining to his children's care. However, by the 1830s, such literature was almost exclusively aimed at mothers, notwithstanding the occasional comment on fathers too frequently absent from home and preoccupied in the workplace of the new industrial society.[26] Raising children had become a more demanding occupation as new attitudes toward the child evolved. No longer regarded as small adults as in colonial times, children were now recognized as innocent and vulnerable beings who required gentle rearing over a long period of time. In a society becoming more urban and materialistic, busy working fathers had little time for the day to day concerns of their children's upbringing.

The ideal mother dominated her own sphere, the household, with seemingly endless reserves for coping with large numbers of children and the hazards of childbirth, and devoted little time to her own needs. Yet the following lament written in 1851 typically reveals the disillusionment that oppressed those unable to live up to the fervently advocated standards of the day:

The only wonder is that the mother does not sink within the circle of everlasting drudgery, which deprives her of the privilege of relaxation for a day, and the time which she would gladly devote to the maternal education of her children. She is occupied, from morning till night, in one unending round of duties and cares -- mistress, mother, and maid of all work. Her mind, though craving knowledge, can not seek it; for she is generally too much fatigued by the exertions of the day to seek it after the noisy little group are out of the way Husband comes in now, and reads from some book or newspaper. He wonders why she is so little interested, and, maybe, very gently, hints at her deficiencies in this respect. Yes, amid all these cares and this drudgery, he would have her satisfied and happy. [27]

The tension between what was counted on and what actually existed was a contributing factor to the so-called crisis in the family that occurred toward the end of the nineteenth century as women became more restless within their traditional roles.[28]

Such problematic concerns are not evident in the many paintings of the period which depict mothers with their children. Primarily scenes of middle-class family life, they celebrate maternal love as timelessly serene and sweetly affectionate. By the end of the century, portrayals of motherhood by artists like Mary Cassatt, Gari Melchers, and George deForest Brush can also be viewed as constituents in the international celebration of female nurture and fecundity that was described, in widely differing styles, by painters such as Paula Moderson-Becker, Giovanni Seganti, and Leon Frederic.[29]

In Lilly Martin Spencer's Mother and Child (cat. no. 35), painted in 1858, mother, probably a self-portrait of the artist,[30] plays peek-a-boo with her baby son as she attempts to dress him. A nursery game is also in progress in Seymour Joseph Guy's "See-Saw Margery Daio" (cat. no. 39) of 1884: mother swings baby on her lap after his bath. The daringly tilted pictorial space gives the illusion of baby's forward motion, inviting the viewer's participation in the fun. On a more serious plane, the profound intimacy of a mother with a suckling infant at her breast suggests a secular madonna in paintings by Enoch Wood Perry and Eastman Johnson (cat. nos. 37, 40).

Mothers were constantly bombarded with advice about healthful activities and the proper diet for their children. In addition, dress reformers like Abba Gould Woolson scolded mothers for dressing children "by the dictates of the latest fashion plate," and oppressing their little girls in tight corsets.[31] The clothing worn by the children in Alfred Thompson Bricher's In My Neighbor's Garden (cat. no. 43), while typically stylish dress for the decade of the 1880s, shows how such fashionable attire restricted a child's activities. The little boy, dressed in lace-collared suit with knickers and high-buttoned boots, sits listlessly in a wagon, while his sister, surely weighed down by the heavy sash around her waist, quietly admires the flowers. Despite the paddles and pails strewn about, their outfits certainly seem inappropriate for play in the garden of a seaside cottage.

Mothers were also warned against the temptation to beautify their children artificially: "They pay dearly for the glory of appearing in ringlets during the day, if they are made to pass their nights lying upon a mass of hard, rough bobs," was the advice of one contemporary child-rearing guide.[32] Beauty and Barbarism (fig. 11), painted by Lilly Martin Spencer around 1890, is a provocative response to such advice: the bleak expression on the face of the little girl whose hair is being crimped into an elaborate style by her mother speaks volumes against the status-conscious aspirations that parents sometimes forced upon their children.

In upper-class households, some of the responsibility of child-rearing could be delegated to servants. In William Henry Lippincott's Infantry in Arms (cat. no. 46), painted in 1887, a nursemaid brings the youngest member of the family to say good morning to his mother at the breakfast table. However, mother is an invisible presence in Edwin Blashfield's Waterloo: Total Defeat (cat. no. 45) of 1882. It shows instead a butler and a maid banishing a little boy to the nursery as they clear his toy soldiers from the tea table they will set for his parents. An intruder in an adult world, the child must retreat to the isolation of his own quarters.


"And voices soft and sweet": The World of the Child

Social historians have observed that the nineteenth century, compared to previous centuries, was the "century of the child."[33] Yet, while we tend to think that the child-oriented middle-class families of Victorian America raised large numbers of children, in fact the birthrate declined steadily throughout the nineteenth century. By 1910 the average number of children raised in white, middle-class households was between three and four. On the other hand, in immigrant families, the tendency was toward much larger families.[34]

Some have suggested that the nineteenth century's exaltation of childhood was helped by declining infant mortality, said to have occurred from the early 1800s. It followed that parents had a greater chance of seeing their children survive into adulthood, and thus the affection and emotional attachment they might formerly have withheld was now worthwhile. However, statistics show that with increased urbanization, and the overcrowding and pollution that came with it, there was little appreciable change in infant mortality.[35]

The American concept of childhood changed as echoes of the European Enlightenment's confidence in human reasoning and personal growth were heard on these shores. Jean Jacques Rousseau's writings on the special nature of childhood were well known here, and by 1820 prevailing Christian beliefs in the inherent depravity of children were challenged by such influential American theologians as William Ellery Channing and Lyman Beecher.[36] An excerpt from the New England Primer, a Calvinist text used in elementary schools from about 1680, gives some sense of the burden borne by children for whom salvation began with birth:

...I was brought to know
the danger I was in
By Nature and by Practice too,
A wretched slave to sin.[37]

In colonial portraits, children were portrayed as miniature adults, their often grim expressions suggesting the serious commitments of their Puritan heritage. As childhood came to be seen as distinct and separate from adulthood, images of children often emphasized innocence and detachment. In paintings such as Children at their Morning Devotions (cat. no. 49) painted by Thomas Sully in 1845, and Lilly Martin Spencer's Will You Have Some Fruit? (cat. no. 53) of 1871, the children are pictured as pious and gentle beings whose vulnerability distinctly sets them apart from the worldly, competitive concerns of society at large.

The identification of children with small animals was another popular motif that underscored the concept of a child's innocence and immaturity. In George Cochran Lambdin's Small Pets (cat. no. 52) of 1860, a young girl cradles two kittens in her lap, while in William McCloskey's Feeding Dolly (cat. no. 55), painted in 1890, a toy dog mayor may not be the recipient of the food in a child's pretend game. With little girls, the range of their experience in childhood was usually a reflection of what was expected of them as adults. Whether depicted with their dolls in a simulated nursery environment (cat. no. 56), sewing (cat. no. 69), or completing a household chore, images of female children most often conformed to the ideal mold of angelic sweetness and passivity.

On the other hand, the portrayal of male children as badly-behaved, even cruel, was not uncommon. Perhaps an unconscious mirror of the aggressiveness thought to be necessary for success in the masculine world of commerce, the "naughty boy" genre has no female parallel in nineteenth-century American painting. In two examples, Tompkins Harrison Matteson's Caught in the Act (cat. no. 57) of 1860 shows a young boy being scolded for breaking a pitcher, while Karl Witkowski's Stealing Apples (cat. no. 59), painted in 1890, portrays three boys gleefully escaping through an orchard fence, their arms filled with edible booty.

In reality, however, the behavior of American children of both sexes was often commented upon by foreign visitors who, though admiring of the school system here, more often than not found the children themselves "detestable." Wrote one peeved visitor in 1867, sounding a common note repeated through the century: "Many of the children in this country appear to be painfully precocious - small stuck-up caricatures of men and women, with but little of the fresh ingenuousness and playfulness of childhood."[38]

To many visitors, the cause of the problem was overly indulgent parents whose children were out of control. The story of one child, Little Fritz, is a case in point. Phillip Burne-Jones, the English artist, was using the American boy as a model for one of his paintings. During the sitting, Little Fritz announced to his grandmother, "I'll kick your head!" Asked to apologize, recounted the artist in his memoirs, the child made "a few perfunctory and scarcely audible sounds, which were generously construed by the family as expressions of contrition and penitence; and Fritz started again with a clear record for a brief period. His mother had absolutely no influence on him whatever, and she admitted as much."[39]

But what seemed particularly galling to foreigners was that American parents were tolerant, even proud of such rebellious naughtiness. As Richard Rapson has explained in his amusing analysis, the cause lay less with over-indulgent parents, than with their pride in raising "sturdy republicans," young Americans who would carry on the anti-authoritarian ideals and democratic principles of equality which were the founding precepts of this nation."[40] Despite the harshness of her own childhood, Lucy Larcom, a millworker in Lowell, Massachusetts from the age of ten, wrote of her European counterparts in a memoir published in 1889: "We did not think those English children had so good a time as we did; they had to be so prim and methodical. It seemed to us that the little folks across the water never were allowed to romp and run wild... [We had] a vague idea that this freedom of ours was the natural inheritance of republican children only."[41]

The subject of the working child was a major theme in the art of the period (see cat. nos. 65, 66, 90). One of the most prolific artists in this genre was John George Brown, who made a fortune painting sentimental images of newspaper boys and bootblacks. There were about one million children working regularly in New York City by the 1880s;[42] thousands of them were homeless. These children without families lived on the streets in grim circumstances recorded for posterity in the compelling photographs of Jacob Riis. Brown, however, typically pictured them as well-scrubbed urchins whose expressions often conveyed a sugary innocence and optimism. The message is clear that, despite their tattered garments and obvious poverty, they will triumph over adversity with diligence and hard work (fig. 12). Such images, and similar ones by Seymour Joseph Guy (cat. no. 66), are pictorial analogues to the young heroes in Ragged Dick (1867), the Luck and Pluck Series (1869), and the Tattered Tom Series (1871), Horatio Alger, Jr.'s popular rags-to-riches stories of newsboys and bootblacks who, through self-reliance and perseverance, achieved the American dream of success.


"There's no place like home": The Cult of Domesticity

Family life has always been centered on the home. By the early nineteenth century, the nature of work had radically changed, and the impact of an economy based on industry meant that middle-class husbands and fathers were increasingly preocuppied with commercial concerns and money-making. A very different sphere of influence existed for wives and mothers. For them, the duties of the household comprised a profession that, in the uplifting words of the Beecher sisters, whose home manual was published in 1869, was "as sacred and important as any ordained to man.[43] Given the status of the prevailing domestic ideology, that old rallying cry against female dissent (still heard in some quarters) -- "a woman's place is in the home" -- was a formidable weapon against those who rejected their assigned role as family protector and "angel of the house."[44]

Housekeeping was hard work and labor-saving machinery was limited and, where available, often inefficient. Laundry chores were among the most taxing, and this was one area where those who could afford to do so hired the work out to a laundress. For those who had to cope at home with this "weekly affliction," as it was termed by one contemporary household advisor, wash day (Monday was usually set aside) often entailed long hours and the endurance of stifling heat over open "coppers" (gas-heated wash tubs).[45] In Charles Courtney Curran's two "laundry" paintings, Hanging out the Clothes (cat. no. 80) of 1886 and Breezy Day (cat. no. 79) of 1887, however, such difficulties are not a concern. The setting is outdoors and the thrust of the artist's subject is the effect of sunlight as it plays over the colorful dresses worn by the women and on the billowing sheets they are laying out to dry. Similarly set in an outdoor landscape, wash day chores are secondary in Jerome Thompson's Frontier Wash Day (cat. no. 78), painted in 1862, where the beautiful bank of flowers that surrounds the figures is the main subject of the picture.

The preparation of food was probably the most time-consuming task in the nineteenth-century household. In Shake Hands? (cat. no. 73) and Kiss Me and You'll Kiss the 'Lasses (cat. no. 74), painted in 1854 and 1856 respectively by Lilly Martin Spencer, the artist's own kitchen provided the setting. Spencer, who had a successful career and was also the mother of thirteen children, achieved great popularity with her "kitchen pieces" through prints made after them. The obvious humor of these two works, with their cheerful women and celebration of good things to eat is tempered somewhat by the primitive cooking facilities glimpsed in the background, and the "everything from scratch" nature of the food preparation.

It is worth noting that the model for Shake Hands? was the Spencer family servant.[46] The number of servants in middle- and upper-class homes peaked around 1870, with estimates of one servant per (approximately) seven white families.[47] Other statistics suggest that in the Northeast between 1870 and 1910, about twenty-five percent of middle-class households employed at least one live-in servant. After 1870 the number of people going into domestic service declined as better-paying jobs became available in industry.[48] In middle-class homes employing a single domestic helper, the work was usually divided, the servant doing the cleaning and babyminding for example, and her mistress the baking and sewing. Even in very wealthy households, where the number of servants was greater, an effective mistress of the house could easily resist the temptations of idleness by supervising the help and assisting with seasonal domestic chores such as canning and jam-making.

By the turn of the century, increasing numbers of middle- and upper-class women were attending college; and while it was still rare for married women to work, many were involved in philanthropy, social reform, and suffragism through the burgeoning women's club movement. As the status of women began to change, career opportunities for educated single women included those in law, medicine, and college teaching. Despite the widening sphere of female activity beyond the home, there were many artists, for example those in the group known as "The Ten" and the Boston School painters, who specialized at this time in portraying women as passive, lonely dreamers in attractive domestic settings. In Girl Playing Solitaire (fig. 13), painted by the Boston artist Frank Weston Benson in 1909, the young woman, lost in the solitude of her own thoughts, evokes a mood of quiet melancholy and lassitude. Engaged in nothing of importance, she is the opposite of the typically energetic Boston clubwoman described by contemporary writers.[49] In a similar vein, the women in Thomas Hovenden's A Reverie (cat. no. 76) of 1873, George Newell Bower's Meditation (cat. no. 81) of 1889, and William F. Chadwick's On the Porch (cat. no. 83) of 1908 evoke the quietistic mood that sustained the ideal domestic environment. A response in part to the more purely aesthetic conventions of later nineteenth-century art, the prevalence of such imagery nevertheless suggests that artists, and by extension their patrons, were concerned with the portrayal of women that conformed to nostalgic ideals of femininity and domesticity.


The Black Family

By the 1830s, the inclusion of black people in works of art had became a distinctly American motif pioneered primarily by William Sidney Mount (1807-1868). In his paintings of rural life on Long Island he often used Blacks, frequently depicting them as musicians. Mount's family had inherited a number of slaves (slavery was not outlawed in the state of New York until 1827), one of whom was a gifted fiddler, and the artist himself was familiar with the traditions of black music from an early age.[50]

Among those who depicted slave life on Southern plantations prior to the Civil War was the German-born Christian Mayr (1805-1851). His Kitchen Ball at White Sulphur Springs of 1838 (North Carolina Museum of Art) shows black couples who are dressed in the latest Victorian fashions, dancing in a festive setting. A scene of affluence and contentment that seems at odds with our own perception of slavery, its effect, as Patricia Hills has observed, "must have been reassuring to the conscience of liberal Easterners who wanted to avoid the issue of human bondage,"[51] for the painting was exhibited in 1845 at the National Academy of Design in New York.

George Fuller (1822-1884), who, like Mayr, sought portrait commissions in the South, documented slave life on the plantations in the 1850s when he travelled several times from his home in New York to Georgia and Alabama. His fascinating drawings, the basis for several later paintings, are free of the stereotyping and condescension that often marred depictions of Blacks, such as the cruel caricatures of the popular Currier and Ives Darktown Series, issued in hundreds of prints after the Civil War and through the rest of the century. Fuller, like most American artists who depicted black life, was more concerned with the picturesque than with indicting the institution of slavery through reformist imagery. Nevertheless his sympathies are clear in a letter he wrote to his fiancee in 1857:

I saw a scene today. Negroes sold at auction together with horses and other cattle. It was full of suggestions which I will not pursue now. The poor children, men, women, and little ones looked sad. What a fate is theirs! No one to raise a voice for them and God above us all.[52]

Fuller's helpless disgust recalls the stirring description of a New Orleans slave market in Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin; or Life Among the Lowly (1852). The main thrust of Stowe's novel is the tragic separation of slave family members -- wives, husbands, and children parted from each other by their capricious owners or an auctioneer's whim. The book's powerful anti-slavery message was made doubly effective through its appeal to the family and domestic values of its sympathetic white readers.

Probably the best known painting of black family life under slavery was Eastman Johnson's Old Kentucky Home (Negro Life in the South) (fig.14), which, after its exhibition in 1859 at the National Academy of Design in New York, brought the artist immediate celebrity.[53] A combination of anecdote and platitude that offended neither abolitionist nor Southerner, the painting was also valued as a document of contemporary history. The critic Henry Tuckerman, writing of the work in 1867, observed:

The Old Kentucky Home is not only a masterly work of art, full of nature, truth, local significance, and character, but it illustrates a phase in American life which the rebellion and its consequences will either uproot or essentially modify; and therefore, this picture is as valuable as a memorial as it is interesting as an art-study.[54]

Emancipation meant that black family members were no longer arbitrarily separated, and indeed, immediately following the Civil War large numbers of black men and women legalized the marriages they had made as slaves.[55] However, economic conditions for the freed black people improved hardly at all through the century. The great majority still continued to work in agriculture as sharecroppers and tenant farmers, a black peasantry that labored in poverty. In Thomas Anschutz's The Way They Live (cat. no. 85) of 1879, the image of a black woman hoeing in a meager cabbage patch recalls the somber mood of deprivation and spiritual despair found in Jean-Francois Millet's (1814-1875) paintings of French peasant life. Interestingly, Millet's paintings were extremely popular in America after the Civil War, and critics here interpreted them as nostalgic evocations of a rural past or, conversely, as works of socio-political realism that could be identified with the harsh conditions of black life.[56]

Nevertheless, the tendency for most artists who painted black family scenes was to lard them with sentiment. The elderly couple in Thomas Hovenden's Sunday Morning (cat. no. 89), painted in 1881, is, despite their shabby surroundings, serenely content, while the impoverished family feeding the visiting minister in Richard Norris Brooke's A Pastoral Visit (cat. no. 88) of 1881, is envisioned in terms of contrived piety and virtue. In like manner, the poverty is picturesque and the subject matter sugary in Harry Roseland's The Family (cat. no. 92), painted in 1901.

A more objective view of black family poverty is pictured in Henry Ossawa Tanner's The Thankful Poor (fig. 15), painted in 1894 when the artist was visiting America from his home in Paris. Tanner, a Black who was the son of a bishop in the Negro church, studied at the Pennsylvania Academy under Thomas Eakins from 1880 to 1882. A victim of outrageous bigotry perpetrated by his fellow students there,[57] Tanner found freedom from the racial intolerance of America when he was offered the chance to study in Paris (where he permanently settled) at the Academic Julian. On a return visit to the United States in 1893 and 1894, he began to paint Negro subjects because, in his own words, "of a desire to represent the serious and pathetic side of life among them; ...other things being equal, he who has most sympathy with his subject will obtain the best results."[58] In The Thankful Poor, a boy and his grandfather say Grace before they begin the frugal meal set before them on the table. Stripped of excessive detail and anecdote, the physical immediacy and spiritual intensity of the two figures in the painting project beyond the shallow picture space to impart a profound message of material deprivation and unwavering faith.



February of 1908, a group commonly known as "The Eight" held its first exhibition at the Macbeth Gallery in New York City. A widely publicized event, it featured works by Robert Henri, John Sloan, and others who later became known as the Ash Can School artists because of the gritty realism and urban subject matter of their paintings. Henri and Sloan, for example, often portrayed the daily experience of city life in the streets, on rooftops, and in tenements, using raw colors and thick, slashing brush strokes to convey the essence of the working class neighborhoods they chose as their subject matter. Novels by Frank Norris and Theodore Dreiser that captured the energy and complexity of life in the rapidly expanding American cities, were literary equivalents to these paintings.

The urban realism of this new generation of painters confronted issues that the earlier genre artists had neglected or only covertly addressed. The gentle narrative idylls pictured in Domestic Bliss -- cozy children's parties in Gilded Age parlors, meditative women with time on their hands, cheerful families working together on pristine farms, scenes of racial and gender harmony of mythic dimensions -- which they saw as elitist or falsely pretty, were no longer relevant to artists who now used different criteria in selecting their subject matter. Acknowledging the social and economic realities of life for the vast majority of the American people, they reacted against the sentiment and genteel superficiality of an earlier time obsessed, so it seemed, with nostalgic yearning for a lost America.

Given the even more ironical temper of our own era, we tend to interpret the lyrical positivism of nineteenth-century American genre paintings negatively, to deconstruct them from the modernist viewpoint as images based on oppression, exploitation, sexism, and so on. Yet, in light of the fulfilling lives most of the artists themselves enjoyed, the rosy vision of life they conveyed seems only natural. A cursory glance at their biographies (see accompanying catalog entries) reveals that even those considered of the lowest rank today studied and travelled abroad for lengthy periods, found a public keen to purchase their work once they returned home, and were actively involved in the world of art as teachers, exhibitors, and administrators. Small wonder then that the bourgeois values of their patrons were conveyed with such moral conviction and pictorial sparkle. Indeed, the blissful scenes of domestic harmony typically painted by these artists may have been closer to the truth than we have allowed ourselves to believe. The reassurance and solidity implied in their images of home and family, many of which were widely reproduced, spoke to the wishful needs of a larger community clinging to stability in the face of complex social and technological change. Thus it follows that the narrative pictures of Domestic Bliss, whether escapist fantasy or veiled truth, further nourish our own sense of a society whose periods of transition anticipated the complexity and restlessness of our own times.

1 Richard H. Dana, "Domestic Life." in The Evergreen: A Monthly Magazine of New and Popular Tales and Poetry, (1840), p. 159.

2 For a discussion of family history, see Philippe Aries, Centuries of Childhood: A Social History of Family Life, trans. by Robert Baldick (New York, 1962); Lawrence Stone, Family, Sex and Marriage in England 1500-1800 (New York, 1977); Carl N. Degler, At Odds: Women and the Family in America from the Revolution to the Present (New York, 1980).

3 See Peter C. Sulton, "Life and Culture in the Golden Age," in Masters of Seventeenth Century Dutch Painting (Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1984), p. ixxv.

4 See Daniel Walker Howe, "Victorian Culture in America," in Victorian America, ed. Daniel Walker Howe (Philadelphia, 1976).

5 S. G. W. Benjamin, "A Painter of the Streets," The Magazine or Art (English Edition), 5 (1882), pp. 265-270.

6 Robert Isaacson, "Collecting Bouguereau in England and America," in William Bougeureau (The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 1984), pp. 104-113.

7 "Half of the foreign stuff that is sold here is a swindle on the public." J. G. Brown to G. W. Sheldon, American Painters (New York, 1878), p. 141.

8 See Linda Henefield Skalet, The Market for American Painting in New York: 1870-1915, Ph.D. diss. (The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Maryland, 1980).

9 Clarence Cook], "Academy of Design, III: Genre Pictures," New York Daily Tribune (April 16, 1877), p. 5.

10 John Demos, "Images of the American Family, Then and Now," in Changing Images of the Family, eds., Virginia Tufte and Barbara Meyerhoff (New Haven, Connecticut, 1979).

11 For an interesting discussion of this painting, see Nicolaus Mills, "The Picture of Success," Yale Review, LXVI. 3, (Spring 1977), p. 349.

12 ]See for example. "The Christian Home," in Catharine Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe, The American Woman's Home: or Principles of Domestic Science (New York, 1869), ilIus. in Kirk Jeffrey, "The Family as Utopian Retreat from the City: The Nineteenth Century Contribution," Soundings: An Interdisciplinary Journal, LV, 1, (Spring, 1972), p. 24.

13 Clifford E. Clark, Jr., "Domestic Architecture as an Index to Social History: The Romantic Revival and the Cult of Domesticity in America, 1840-1870," Journal of Interdisciplinary History, VII, I (Summer, 1976), p. 53.

14 See David Park Curry, Winslow Homer: The Croquet Game (Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut, 1984).

15 [Anon.], "One Day in my Life," Harper's Weekly (January 2, 1858) quoted in Roxana Barry, Land of Plenty: Nineteenth Century American Picnic and Harvest Scenes (Katonah Gallery, Katonah, New York, 1981), p. 5.

16 The Picture That is Turned Toward the Wall," (1891) music and lyrics by Charles Graham. in Donald M. Scott and Bernard Wishy, eds., America's Families: A Documentary History (New York, 1982), p. 281.

17 Lee M. Edwards, "The Life and Career of Jerome Thompson," The American Art Journal, XIV, 4 (Autumn 1982), pp. 20-21. Samuel Woodworth (1784-1843) was a founder of the New York Mirror, and a successful playwright.

18 The Commonwealth, (New York, March 1, 1869), quoted in Peremptory Sale of Valuable Paintings by Jerome Thompson, April 30, 1869 (New York, 1869), p. 8.

19 Walton Rawls, The Great Book of Currier and lves' America (New York, 1979), p. 242.

20 "'Home Sweet Home' by John Howard Payne" in Peremptory Sale ... (New York, 1869), p. 9.

21 Hermann Warner Williams, Mirror to the American Past: A Survey of American Genre Painting: 1750-1900 (Greenwich, Connecticut, 1973) p. 215.

22 [Anon.], "A Strong Exhibition at the National Academy: The Sixty-sixth Annual Display and its Principal Features," New York Herald (Friday, April 3, 1891), p. 8.

23 Catharine E. Beecher, Truth Stranger than Fiction (New York, 1859) in Scott and Wishy, p. 243.

24 Degler, pp. 21-24.

25 Catharine Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe, The American Woman's Home (New York, 1869) in Scott and Wishy, p. 280.

26 Degler, pp. 73, 77.

27 [Anon.], "Every-day Life of Woman," Ladies' Repository, XI (October, 1851) in Scott and Wishy, p. 266.

28 For discussion, see Christopher Lasch, Haven in a Heartless World: The Family Besieged (New York, 1977).

29 See Linda Nochlin, "Leon Frederic and the Stages of the Worker's Life," Arts Magazine, 55, 4 (December, 1980), pp. 141-42.

30 Linda Ayres, "The American Figure: Genre Paintings and Sculpture" in An American Perspective (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1981), p. 51.

31 Abba Gould Woolson, ed., Dress-Reform (Boston, 1874) in Harvey Green, The Light of the Home: An Intimate View of the Lives of Women in Victorian America (New York, 1983), p. 43.

32 The Ladies' Guide to True Politeness and Perfect Manners, or Miss Leslie's Behavior Book (Philadelphia, 1864) in Green, p. 44.

33 For example, see Degler, p. 72 and Mary Lynn Stevens Heininger, "Children, Childhood, and Change in America, 1820-1920" in A Century of Childhood, 1820-1920 (The Margaret Woodbury Strong Museum, Rochester, New York, 1984), pp. 1-32.

34 Green, p. 30.

35 Degler, p. 72.

36 Green. p. 34.

37 The New England Primer (1685) in Rawls, p. 161.

38 Greville Chester, Transatlantic Sketches (London, 1869) in Richard L Rapson, "The American Child as Seen by British Travelers, 1845-1935, American Quarterly, XVII, 3 (Fall, 1965), p. 521. 25

39 Sir Philip Burne-Jones, Dollars and Democracy (New York, 1904) in Rapson, p. 524.

40 Rapson, p. 527.

41 Lucy Larcom, A New England Girlhood (Boston, 1889) in Anne Scott MacLeod, "The Caddie Woodlawn Syndrome: American Girlhood in the Nineteenth Century," A Century of Childhood, 1820-1920, p. 104.

42 Rawls, p. 163.

43 Catharine Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe, The American Woman's Home (New York, 1869) in Scott and Wishy, p. 279.

44 On changing female roles and the family, see Carroll Smith-Rosenberg, Disorderly Conduct: Visions of Gender in Victorian America (New York, 1985).

45 Barbara Brandt, "Washing Day," The Household, VII, 10 (October, 1874), p. 288 in Green, p. 73. For a fascinating study of American housekeeping practices in the nineteenth century, see Green, pp. 59-92.

46 See Robin Bolton-Smith and William H. Treuttner, Lilly Martin Spencer: The Joys of Sentiment (Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., 1973), pp. 149, 167.

47 Degler, p. 155.

48 See Green, p. 87. For a history of domestic service, see Faye E. Dudden, Serving Women: Household Service in Nineteenth Century America (Middletown, Connecticut, 1983).

49 For an excellent discussion of the late nineteenth-century Boston School artists and their "languid lady" imagery as a "deliberate denial of the reformist achievements of real Boston women," see Bernice Kramer Leader, "Antifeminism in the Paintings of the Boston School," Arts Magazine, 56, 5 (January, 1982), pp. 112-119. Also Leader, The Boston Lady as a Work of Art: Paintings In{ the Boston School at the Turn of the Century, Ph. D. diss. (Columbia University, New York, 1980).

50 Karen M. Adams, "The Black Image in the Paintings of William Sidney Mount," The American Art Journal, VII, 2 (November, 1975), pp. 42-59.

51 Patricia Hills, The Painters' America: Rural and Urban Life, 1810-1910 (The Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1974), p. 58.

52 George Fuller to Harriet Fuller, January 12, 1857, in Sarah Burns, "Images of Slavery: George Fuller's Depictions of the Antebellum South," The American Art Journal, XV, 3 (Summer, 1983), p. 37. The article illustrates Fuller's slave drawings and paintings.

53 See Ellwood Parry, The Image of the Indian and the Black Man in American Art, 1590-1900 (New York, 1974), pp. 101-102.

54 Henry T. Tuckerman, Book of the Artists (New York, 1867) in Parry, p. 102.

55 Degler, p. 115.

56 Laura L. Meixner, "Popular Criticism of Jean-Francois Millet in Nineteenth Century America," The Art Bulletin (March, 1983), pp. 94-105.

57 See Joseph Pennell, Adventures of an Illustrator (Boston, 1925) in Parry, p. 165.

58 "Letter by Tanner in the collection of the Pennsylvania School of the Deaf, in Parry, p. 167.

About the author

Dr. Lee M.Edwards wrote the above essay as part of her book, Domestic Bliss: Family Life in American Painting 1840 - 1910. The catalogue was published to coincide with the exhibition of the same name at The Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, New York, May 18 through July 14, 1986. The exhibition was later shown at The Margaret Woodbury Strong Museum, Rochester, New York, August 17 through November 30, 1986. Dr. Edwards has since co-authored another book, Herkomer: A Victorian Artist (1999), with Sir Hubert Von Herkomer.


Resource Library editor's note

The above exhibition catalogue text was reprinted in Resource Library on July 16, 2008, with permission of the Hudson River Museum. The permission was granted to TFAO on June 17, 2008. Dr. Edwards essay pertains to Domestic Bliss: Family Life in American Painting 1840 - 1910, which was on view at the Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, New York, May 18 through July 14, 1986.

Resource Library wishes to extend appreciation to Laura Vookles, Exhibits Curator of the Hudson River Museum, and Stacey Wittig for their help concerning permissions for reprinting the above texts.

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