Thomas Hovenden His Life And Art Essay

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Thomas Hovenden (December 28, 1840 – August 14, 1895), was an Irishartist and teacher. He painted realistic quiet family scenes, narrative subjects and often depicted African Americans.


Hovenden was born in Dunmanway, Co. Cork, Ireland. His parents died at the time of the potato famine and he was placed in an orphanage at the age of six. Apprenticed to a carver and gilder, he studied at the Cork School of Design.

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[edit]

  • 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


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

External links[edit]

Last <oments of John Brown Visual Analysis Essay

997 WordsNov 2nd, 20134 Pages

Formal Analysis: The Last Moments of John Brown

The Last Moments of John Brown is a painting by Thomas Hovenden. It is an oil on canvas painting painted in 1884. The dimensions of the painting are 46 1/8 x 38 3/8 inches. This piece was painted to depict abolitionist martyr John Brown being taken to his execution in Charlestown, Virginia, on December 2, 1859. The piece is currently located at the De Young Museum in San Francisco, California and its original location is at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. On October 16th, 1859, John Brown led a group of twenty-one men in an attack on the Harpers Ferry Arsenal. His idea was to go from town to town arming black slaves hoping to spark a rebellion. The uprising was…show more content…

The crowd on the left side was likely free slaves. The fact that the little white girl was there further implies that these people were free.
Thomas Hovenden uses a mix of warm and cool colors to paint this picture. The mother and the babies clothing are the only colors that have high value, which helps them stand out in the painting. The baby is wearing a bright blue jacket while the mother is wearing a red bandanna and yellowish dress. His use of bright colors to illustrate this little family along with John Brown giving his blessing to the baby communicates to us that there is a bright future ahead for them.
The contour lines of the painting are drawn strong and hard, isolating each figure. The lines in the painting are mainly vertical. The majority of the people are all standing up, the soldiers weapons are pointed upward, and the pillars are painted tall. The vertical lines communicates a sense of heighten spirituality. Also, if you look closely behind John Brown, the artist manipulates the lines of the building to put a cross-shaped figure right above his head. The combination of these two factors gives us the feeling that Thomas Hovenden was trying to portray John Brown as a Christ-like Martyr heading to his crucifixion.
The lighting of the picture is very natural and comforting. The artist painted the setting to be a bright sunny day. The execution of a person should be a sad,

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