Advanced Search

Competitive Blowers

Not on view

Competitive Blowers

Artist: James D. Smillie (American, 1833-1909)

Date: 1887
Medium: Ink wash on paper
Overall: 12 × 9in. (30.5 × 22.9cm)
Inscribed: Recto (lower left of image in ink): "J. Smillie Apr. 1887" On cardboard below image (in graphite): "Competitive Blowers"
Credit Line: Museum Purchase
Object number: 2004.18.2
Label Text
This wash drawing along with two related works, a photograph and an etching, provide a rare insight into the working methods of the prolific 19th century American engraver and painter, James D. Smillie. He based this drawing on a photograph made by his younger brother Charles. In copying the photograph James retained the pose and costume of the young children but simplified the background by eliminating a stone wall and by changing the composition to a vertical format.

Smillie then used the drawing as the source for an etching that was published with the title What O'Clock Is It? This title refers to a now-forgotten child's game in which the number of dandelion seeds left on a stem indicates the time of day or foretells some future event. In 1889 the etching was published in J. Ripley W. Hitchcock's Representative Etchings by Artists of Today in America and exhibited by Smillie at the New-York Etching Club, an organization he helped to found several years earlier. Today the print is very rare.

The wash drawing and its related photograph and etching descended in Smillie's family until they were acquired by a private collector from whom they were purchased by the Museum.

Paul D. Schweizer
August 2005