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MFA for Educators

Engage your students with the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, to illustrate themes and concepts in any discipline.

Robin's Children In Portraiture Gallery

  • The Torn Hat

    Slide Notes

    1. Boy With The Torn Hat by Thomas Sully 1820
    a. 1800’s an era of showing “children as truly child-like”, this portrait of the artist’s son, Thomas Wilcocks Sully, is especially informal
    b. Thomas Sullly was the leading portrait artist of Philadelphia in beginning of 1800’s
    c. clothing casual – open white shirt, wrinkled jacket and torn straw hat
    d. paint style – loose and fluid
    e. colors dark and in shadow with bright light at top showing through torn hat brim onto forehead and on lower face and neck
    f. boy’s face rosy and sweet but image alludes to the mischief the boy must have gotten into when he tore the hat
    g. intimacy – close up and no fancy background to distract from the boy
    *Genre painting connection. There’s a suggested narrative of the boy’s having done some mischievous act which tore the hat that connects it to genre painting as well.
    Question: What does this painting tell you about the boy?

    Details

    The Torn Hat

    1820

    Thomas Sully, American (born in England), 1783–1872

    Dimensions

    48.58 x 37.15 cm (19 1/8 x 14 5/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on panel

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    16.104

    Collections
    Americas
    On View
    Landry Gallery (Neoclassicism,1790-1850) - 126 More Info

    Description

    Multimedia

  • Tuckered Out —The Shoeshine Boy

    Slide Notes

    Tuckered Out – The Shoe Shine Boy by John George Brown 1868
    * Genre painting as it tells a story of a person or people of the time, even thought it is a portrait as well. But the identity of the boy is not the subject of the painting but rather what type of boy he was.
    * Genre paintings before the Civil War were more raw and edgy. After the trauma of the Civil War, genre paintings became more sentimental, nostalgic and sweet.
    * This painting exemplifies the sweetness. An exhausted boy in old torn clothes has fallen asleep on the job, but he is portrayed with rosy cheeks and a cherubic face with not a bit of shoe polish anywhere on his face or clothes. Nor is he skinny from poverty and lack of food.
    *The high contrast darks and lights of color add drama to the painting and make the boy pop out from the background with his fair complexion and white shirt. The red undershirt seen through the holes in the white shirt pop out, too against the dark background.
    *The palette is similar to Sargent’s Robert de Cervrieux in it’s dark blues and blacks playing off against whites and reds.
    Question: What other comparisons can you make between this and Sargent's Robert de Cervrieux?

    Details

    Tuckered Out —The Shoeshine Boy

    about 1888

    John George Brown, American (born in England), 1831–1913

    Dimensions

    61.59 x 40.96 cm (24 1/4 x 16 1/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    64.467

    Collections
    Americas More Info

    Description

    Multimedia

  • Boys in a Pasture

    Slide Notes

    Boys in a Pasture by Winslow Homer 1874
    * This beautiful painting is less a portrait and more a type, like the previous image Tuckered Out – The Shoe Shine Boy. The identities of the boys are unimportant.
    * Painterly style soft and loose with bold brush strokes visible. Less realistic.
    * Bright and soft colors and brush strokes similar to Impressionism happening in Europe and beginning to influence some American artists.
    * Casual in pose and in clothing, the children are leisurely resting and enjoying the sunshine out in a field.
    * Unlike Tuckered Out, though, the boys are not exhausted from work but are caught in a leisurely moment.

    Details

    Boys in a Pasture

    1874

    Winslow Homer, American, 1836–1910

    Dimensions

    40.32 x 58.1 cm (15 7/8 x 22 7/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    53.2552

    Collections
    Americas
    On View
    Alfond Gallery (Homer, Eakins, Civil War) - 234 More Info

    Description

    Multimedia

  • Freake-Gibbs Portraits

    Slide Notes

    *1670 Portraits of brother and sister Robert and Margaret Gibbs by unknown artist referred to as Freake-Gibbs painter
    *Earliest portraits known in the American colonies.
    *Signs of wealth portrayed: ornate clothing and shoes, luxurious drapes, chair and floor.
    *Clothing reveals sumptuary laws regarding what you could and could not wear; slashes in the sleeves signify wealth.
    *Painting style is classical and looks medieval.
    *Portrait faces are more a "type" than a realistic likeness.
    *Children portrayed like miniature adults. Stiff, serious and formal with adult clothing.

    Details

    Robert Gibbs at 4 1/2 Years

    1670

    Freake-Gibbs painter

    Dimensions

    101.92 x 83.82 cm (40 1/8 x 33 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    69.1227

    Collections
    Americas
    On View
    Manning House (17th c.) - LG36 More Info

    Margaret Gibbs

    1670

    Freake-Gibbs painter

    Dimensions

    102.87 x 84.14 cm (40 1/2 x 33 1/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    1995.800

    Collections
    Americas
    On View
    Manning House (17th c.) - LG36 More Info

    Description


    Multimedia

  • Mary and Elizabeth Royall

    Slide Notes

    Mary and Elizabeth Royall by John Singleton Copley 1758
    • America’s first great portrait artist. colonial era portrait painter who painted in a very tightly academic, finished style with realistic features of faces
    • 2 sisters posed formally on a couch with luscious fabrics on sofa and girls gowns – showing the trappings of wealth
    • vibrant colors add richness to painting
    • but although formal pose and lavish imagery, there is a hint of childlike interests in the dog nuzzled by one sister and the small bird on the hand of the other sister

    Details

    Mary and Elizabeth Royall

    about 1758

    John Singleton Copley, American, 1738–1815

    Dimensions

    145.73 x 122.24 cm (57 3/8 x 48 1/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    25.49

    Collections
    Americas
    On View
    Saunders Gallery (Copley) - 128 More Info

    Description

    Multimedia

  • William Allen

    Slide Notes

    William Allen by William Matthew Prior in 1843
    *More childlike, casual pose sitting on the ground outside
    *Dogs snuggled by child add to informality & holding a bouquet of wild flowers rather than a fancy vase. The boy also holds a stick and his hat is casually placed on the ground rather than on his head.
    *But wealth still revealed in elegant clothing of child, straw hat off of head but fancy bow on it, and beautiful collar on standing dog.
    *Dark colors in the woods and the dogs contrast against bright colors of child and his clothing. The brightness makes the innocent, young child pop out against the darkness of nature. Relates back to Romanticism's wild nature.
    Question: How does the darkness in the background make you feel about the painting and about the artist's view of nature?

    Details

    William Allen

    1843

    William Matthew Prior, American, 1806–1873

    Dimensions

    81.91 x 101.92 cm (32 1/4 x 40 1/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    48.466

    Collections
    Americas
    On View
    Linde Gallery (Am. Folk Art) - 237 More Info

    Description

    Multimedia

  • Folk Art vs. Realism in Portraiture

    Slide Notes

    Joseph Moore and His Family by Erastus Salisbury Field 1839
    *Folk Painting – made by self taught artists with little or no formal training; images decorative and flat, often pattern oriented and simplistic, colorful; observations of an untrained eyes’s world
    * family portrait in what looks like their formal living room. Dressed in fancy clothing and hairstyles of the day, and surrounded by their prize possessions, fancy furnishings, books… a snapshot of the lives of a normal (but upper/ middle class) family

    The Colgate Family by Johannes Oertel 1866
    *This family made their wealth from toothpaste
    * mid class but new wealth
    *lovely home with nice décor and electric lights (new for that time) but not huge with classical columns and architecture
    *realism – not just ‘type’ of people but realistic features of sitters’
    *Interaction of a family in every day life; dad plays handkerchief puppet with one child, more informal and warm.
    *children’s clothing more casual but not play clothes
    Questions: How are the two paintings similar? How are they different?

    Details

    Joseph Moore and His Family

    about 1839

    Erastus Salisbury Field, American, 1805–1900

    Dimensions

    209.23 x 237.17 cm (82 3/8 x 93 3/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    58.25

    Collections
    Americas
    On View
    Linde Gallery (Am. Folk Art) - 237 More Info

    The Colgate Family

    1866

    Johannes Adam Simon Oertel, American (born in Furth, Bavaria), 1823–1909

    Dimensions

    85.1 x 68.6 cm (33.5 x 27 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    2002.20

    Collections
    Americas
    On View
    Goel Gallery (Am. Innovation) - 239 More Info

    Description


    Multimedia

  • Writing to Father

    Slide Notes

    Writing to Father by Eastman Johnson, 1863
    *Johnson studied in both Boston and Europe to master his painting techniques. Painted images depicting the Civil War's affects on American life.
    *Portrait more a genre painting capturing the image of a young boy writing a letter to his father.
    *Somber image as the Union army cap sits in the foreground on a chair symbolizing the missing father. The gray cadet's uniform the boy wears also adds to the sadness.
    *The contrast of the very large, formal painted chair to the boy's small size makes him look even younger and adds more sadness. He is young and must have recently learned to write.
    *Darker colors, shadows and high contrast add somber quality.
    * The little light from the window illuminates the boy with his cherubic face and gives him an air of sweetness as he concentrates on his writing.
    * It's a small painting emphasizing the intimacy of the scene.
    Question: Do you find this painting more somber or sweet? Why?

    Details

    Writing to Father

    1863

    Eastman Johnson, American, 1824–1906

    Dimensions

    30.48 x 23.49 cm (12 x 9 1/4 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on composition board

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    64.435

    Collections
    Americas
    On View
    Goel Gallery (Am. Innovation) - 239 More Info

    Description

    Multimedia

  • Three Sisters of the Copeland...

    Slide Notes

    Three Sisters of The Copeland Family by William Matthew Prior 1854
    * Folk painting of Samuel Copeland’s daughters. Copeland's wealth was newly acquired as a second-hand clothing dealer and real-estate investor
    * Prior worked in Charlestown, part of Boston and adjusted the prices of his paintings based on what his clients could afford. He advertised in 1831 “persons wishing for a flat picture can have likenesses without shade or shadow at one quarter the price” (pg.92 in MFA Highlights: American Painting). His most detailed and complex paintings sold for $25.
    * Although a folk painting, there is shading in the girls’ faces and bodies.
    * Clothing shows the father’s wealth: fashionable off the shoulder dresses and nice necklaces and hair ribbons. Book and flowers show fine manners of the girls.
    * Artist was a political activist and an abolitionist. Unusual for the day, he had a number of African-American clients and his paintings of them were treated seriously and with respect. Copeland's daughters' portrait reflects this.
    Question: Although this is a folk art style painting, how is it still a formal painting?

    Details

    Three Sisters of the Copeland Family

    1854

    William Matthew Prior, American, 1806–1873

    Dimensions

    68.26 x 92.71 cm (26 7/8 x 36 1/2 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    48.467

    Collections
    Americas More Info

    Description

    Multimedia

  • The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit

    Slide Notes

    The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit by John Singer Sargent 1882
    * Painting of an American family that lived both in Boston and in Paris. This painting is of the girls in their elegant Paris apartment.
    * It is Sargent’s masterpiece. Patron was trained as an artist and let Sargent create this very unconventional portrait. Even obscured one daughter’s face in shadow. Composition influenced by Spanish master artist Diego Velazquez and his painting Las Meninas of a princess and her maids.
    * Wealth revealed in elegant room and décor, yet casual clothing on girls. Informality in the way the youngest daughter sits on the floor with her doll, which is elegantly dressed. Beautiful Japanese vases and ornately patterned rug reveal wealth. But children are at play, caught in a moment being children.
    * Painting style is more loose and painterly than many earlier paintings viewed.
    * Light and shadow play major roles in the painting adding drama to it. The girls’ white dresses and the bold red screen at the right stand out in the composition. A window at the back of the room with a hint of light coming through also becomes an area of interest.
    * In the MFA, the painting is displayed with the two large Japanese vases on either side of it. Museum workers actually found toys inside that the girls must have left years ago.

    Details

    The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit

    1882

    John Singer Sargent, American, 1856–1925

    Dimensions

    221.93 x 222.57 cm (87 3/8 x 87 5/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    19.124

    Collections
    Americas
    On View
    Bernard & B.S. Shapiro Gallery (Sargent) - 232 More Info

    Description

    Multimedia

  • Robert de Cévrieux

    Slide Notes

    Robert de Cevrieux by John Singer Sargent 1879
    *Beautiful portrait of young boy holding his dog tenderly in his arms.
    * Wealth clearly revealed in fancy clothing of boy, but casual stance – relaxed and not stiff – holding dog. A child caught being a child.
    * Painterly style with soft brushstrokes visible in the dark background as well as in the beautiful Oriental rug pattern. Drama exists due to the shadows and high contrast darks and lights.
    * The boy stands out with his face being the lightest passage as well as the whites in his clothing and the bold red of his bow and socks.

    Details

    Robert de Cévrieux

    1879

    John Singer Sargent, American, 1856–1925

    Dimensions

    84.45 x 47.94 cm (33 1/4 x 18 7/8 in.)

    Medium

    Oil on canvas

    Classification

    Paintings

    Accession Number

    22.372

    Collections
    Americas
    On View
    Bernard & B.S. Shapiro Gallery (Sargent) - 232 More Info

    Description

    Multimedia