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The Woodcutter's Daughter

Woodcutter’s Daughter
Year: ca. 1850
Medium: Oil on canvas
1974.02.05 Belmont Mansion Association purchase

Provenance: By purchase at the 1888 Belmont estate sale to Alice Hayes and Henry Forde to their son Clifton Forde to his son Clifton Douglass, Jr. by purchase to the Belmont Mansion Association.

Adelicia may have bought this painting while on her grand European tour. Also these paintings were imported to America to sell to the growing art market. This type of landscape genre painting was popularized by John Constable (English, 1776-1837). Landscape paintings were small-scaled and are considered a style of painting beneath historical and mythological subject matter. Constable ignored convention and elevated this style in scale and popularity. He was awarded medals in Paris, but received a lukewarm reception in England. While the artist who painted The Woodcutter’s Daughter is unknown, he or she paints in the style of early Constable landscapes. The artist adds the woodcutter and his daughter in the bottom right hand corner to create a narrative within the landscape.

Due to the increasing European interest in Classical landscapes in the early nineteenth-century, landscape paintings in America were thought to underscore the owner’s wealth, sense of fashion, and status.[i] Propelled by a developing consciousness of the natural world, landscape painting even garnered its own curriculum in established European academic art institutions in the early 1800s.[ii]

There are seven different types of landscape renderings: historical, mountainous, seascape, panoramic, wooded, pastoral (also known as bucolic), and townscape.[iii] The Woodcutter’s Daughter, is a pastoral landscape, as it depicts the bucolic scene of the woodcutter and his daughter resting from their daily chores. The image represents a picturesque ideal, due to the fact that it does not inspire an awe of the supernatural. It is a non-threatening picture of the natural world.

The artist used loose brushstrokes and fading sunlight in the Woodcutter’s Daughter that express a sense of immediacy, placing the viewer within the rustic image set in a rural area. Since Adelicia Acklen purchased the landscape to hang in her country estate the painting would have reinforced this idyllic country escape. Picturesque landscape paintings were also used as a way for urban gentry to depart from city life without having to leave the comfort of their homes.[iv] As a well-educated and well-traveled American aristocrat, Adelicia Acklen would have known and understood the implications of owning a landscape painting, and the inflated status it would bring to her collection.[v]

Frances Williams
30 October 2017

[i] Petra ten-Doesschate Chu, Nineteenth-Century European Art (Pearson Prentice Hall, 2012), 142.
[ii] Chu, Nineteenth-Century Art, 179.
[iii] Ibid., 188.
[iv] Ibid.
[v] Wardin, Albert W. Belmont Mansion The Home of Joseph and Adelicia Acklen. Belmont Mansion Association, 2012, pp. 6, 8, 23, 26.

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