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Attributed to Sturtevant J. Hamblin (act. 1837–1856)
Oil on canvas
27 1/8 x 22 1/4 in.
American Folk Art Museum, gift of Robert Bishop, 1992.10.2
Photo by John Parnell, New York
Portraits of sea captains are poignant reminders of the hazards and hardships posed by the oceangoing trades during the nineteenth century. Perhaps more than any other single community, men who followed the seafaring professions relied on painted portraits to function as a surrogate presence in their homes, as voyages frequently lasted years and men did not always survive to return home. This is one of several similar portraits of sea captains painted by Sturtevant J. Hamblin, who established himself in Boston with his brother-in-law, William Matthew Prior. The two were the primary practitioners of a schematic style of portraiture “without shade” that could be completed quickly and at modest cost to the client.
The schoolmaster was an important member of a community. In district or common schools, it was customary for the teacher to be a young man during the winter months and a woman during the summer, when farming and other occupations may have taken precedence. According to his obituary in the Freewill Baptist organ The Morningstar, John F. Demeritt “devoted his early life to teaching common schools and always manifested a deep interest in the education of the young in his vicinity.” Geography was clearly part of this education as indicated in this drawing. In addition to map study, teaching geography to young girls might involve “working maps” as part of the regular curriculum.
Map of the Animal Kingdom
Probably New England
Watercolor, ink, and pencil on paper
26 x 34 3/4 in.
American Folk Art Museum, gift of Ralph Esmerian, 2013.1.41
Courtesy Sotheby’s, New York
In the Litchfield Academy, the study of geography and history was considered important in expanding the minds of their charges, improving their memories and giving them a wider perspective on the world. Geography was integrated into the ornamental arts, where students drew maps in ink and shaded the boundaries with watercolor in a manner similar to this example. This unusual Map of the Animal Kingdom shows animals and some peoples native to regions around the globe. It closely follows a pictorial atlas map published by W.C. Woodbridge of Connecticut in 1831 that was intended for use in the classroom. The map is framed with delicate theorem painting of roses with thorny stems and leaves, a technique that relied upon the use of hollowcut stencils to create the modular forms.
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