In the nineteenth century, attitudes towards work changed, especially in the northern states of America. Although some artists made fun of “country bumpkins,” in general, farm work and farmers began to take on greater prestige and admiration. During the 1860s, Johnson returned to his birthplace in Maine to make studies of maple sugar production and also to seek out subjects of a rural life far removed from slavery. Barn interiors and home interiors show the families of farmers husking corn, winnowing grain, of taking a smoke. Exteriors show farmers at harvest time, loggers cutting trees or simply relaxing. In choosing scenes of rural white America Johnson was following in the tradition of Francis William Edmonds, George H. Durrie, Tompkins H. Matteson, and William Sidney Mount—a tradition popularized by the prints of Currier and Ives. —PH
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Hills, 2021: The inscription on the door, "Lincoln/[?]/Hamlon [sic]," is a reference to the U.S. presidential election of 1860, in which Hannibal Hamlin was Abraham Lincoln's running mate. In the Currier & Ives print of this painting, the wording is changed to "The Union Forever," the slogan of the Lincoln-Hamlin campaign.
Vanity Fair, April 16, 1861, "More Glances at the Gallery":
No 223 Husking—Eastman Johnson.
Fie! fie! Mr. Artist! where are your “red
“A Husking” without pretty girls to be
“All talk and no cider?”—why, really’ one
If you cannot do better, you must go down
["No. 223" refers to the painting's number in the 1861 exhibition at the National Academy of Design.]
- Subject matter:
- Baskets »
- Corn husking »
- Dogs »
Also owned by: American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Massachusetts (493493); Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, Texas (179.70); Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts, Springfield, Massachusetts (2004.D03.556); Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, Oklahoma (1526.557); Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (33.914)
See all Prints after Works by Johnson.