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The Village Blacksmith

Artist: Engraved by George Patterson; From a painting by J. F. Herring
Year: 1858-59
Medium: Intaglio print on paper
Size: Height - 33 1/2", and Width - 26"
Original Location: Upstairs

John Frederick Herring was inspired to paint The Village Blacksmith after Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem of the same name. However, Herring took some liberties with the subject matter when translating it to canvas. The painting depicts the blacksmith shoeing a horse with his dog obediently standing nearby. He glances over his shoulder to see his wife who has just entered the shop. The blacksmith of Longfellow’s poem is very different. Longfellow’s blacksmith works at a “flaming forge” and swings “his heavy sledge.” It does not mention the work of shoeing horses. Another stark contrast is the matter of the wife. In Herring’s painting, she stands off to the side holding a food basket in her arms, but in Longfellow’s poem the blacksmith mourns the loss of his wife at church.

Despite these stark contrasts, Herring manages to capture the spirit of the blacksmith that Longfellow writes about. George Patterson’s engraving of the painting was celebrated by critics. The horse, in particular, was considered one of the best depictions of its kind. It was also the last engraving Patterson would create before his death.

Patterson, who was from London, was considered one of the best modern engravers. The Cosmopolitan Art Association purchased both Herring’s painting and Patterson’s plate and copyright. They published the engraving exclusively for their members for the Fifth Year 1858-1859. Adelicia would have had to be a member of the Association to receive a copy of the print.

The family also had strong ties to this piece. William corresponded with Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and during the summer of 1879, Adelicia, William and Pauline visited him at his home. In an 1881 article, the Louisville Courier Journal wrote that The Village Blacksmith was hanging in an upstairs bedroom of the mansion.

Conservation of print made possible by Dr. and Mrs. S.C. Roddy, Jr.

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