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Thomas Hovenden


Thomas Hovenden Painting - An Earnest Effort by Thomas Hovenden

An Earnest Effort

Hellenica World, Paintings, Drawings

Breaking Home Ties

Hellenica World, Paintings, Drawings

The Last Moments of John Brown

Thomas Hovenden (December 28, 1840 – August 14, 1895), was an Irish-American artist and teacher. He painted realistic quiet family scenes, narrative subjects and often depicted African Americans. In 1863, he immigrated to the United States. He studied at the National Academy of Design in New York City. He moved to Baltimore in 1868 and then left for Paris in 1874. He studied at the École des Beaux Arts under Cabanel, but spent most of his time with the American art colony at Pont-Aven in Brittany led by Robert Wylie, where he painted many pictures of the peasantry.

Returning to America in 1880, he became a member of the Society of American Artists and an Associate member of the National Academy of Design (elected Academician in 1882). He married Helen Corson in 1881, an artist he had met in Pont-Aven, and settled at her father's homestead in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, outside of Philadelphia. She came from a family of abolitionists and her home was a stop on the Underground Railroad. Their barn, later used as Hovenden's studio, was known as "Abolition Hall" due to its use for anti-slavery meetings.[1]

He was commissioned by Mr. Robbins Battell[2] to paint a historical picture of the abolitionist leader John Brown. He finished The Last Moments of John Brown (now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art) in 1884.[3] Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Carl Stoeckel in 1897. Accession Number 97.5 Mrs. Stoeckel was Mr. Battell's daughter. His Breaking Home Ties, a picture of American farm life, was engraved with considerable popular success.

In 1886, he was appointed Professor of Painting and Drawing at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, replacing Thomas Eakins who was dismissed due to his use of nude models. Among Hovenden's students were the sculptor Alexander Stirling Calder and the leader of the Ashcan School, Robert Henri.

Hovenden was killed at the age of 54, along with a ten-year-old girl, by a railroad locomotive at a crossing near his home in Plymouth Meeting. Newspaper accounts reported that his death was the result of a heroic effort to save the girl, while a coroner's inquest determined his death was an accident.[1]

A Pennsylvania state historical marker in Plymouth Meeting interprets Abolition Hall and Hovenden.[4] Hovenden House, Barn and Abolition Hall was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971.[5] He is buried across the street in the cemetery of the Plymouth Friends Meetinghouse.[6]

Selected works

Self-Portrait of the Artist in His Studio, 1875, Yale University Art Gallery
Image Seller, 1876, Metropolitan Museum of Art
News from the Conscript, 1877
Loyalist Peasant Soldier of La Vendée, 1877
A Breton Interior, 1793, 1878, Metropolitan Museum of Art
In Hoc Signo Vinces, 1880, Detroit Institute of Arts, Michigan
The Old Version, 1881, San Francisco Museum of Fine Art
Sunday Morning, 1881, San Francisco Museum of Fine Art
Chloe and Sam, 1882, Amon Carter Museum
The Last Moments of John Brown, 1882-4, Metropolitan Museum of Art
Taking His Ease, 1885, San Francisco Museum of Fine Art
Breaking Home Ties, 1890, Philadelphia Museum of Art
Bringing Home the Bride, 1893, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, Minnesota
Jerusalem the Golden, 1894, Metropolitan Museum of Art


Thomas Hovenden: American Painter of Hearth and Homeland, Woodmere Art Museum, Philadelphia, 1995. ISBN 1-888008-00-8.
See: Norfolk, Connecticut
A replica of the painting is at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.
Abolition Hall marker
"National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2010-07-09.

"National Historic Landmarks & National Register of Historic Places in Pennsylvania" (Searchable database). CRGIS: Cultural Resources Geographic Information System. Note: This includes Helen Reichart Mirras (December 1969). "National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form: Plymouth Friends Meetinghouse" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-05-24.

External links

"Thomas Hovenden Killed," The Pittsburgh Press, 15 August 1895.

Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.


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