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Early Winter, Hiawatha Island, Owego, New York

Not on view

Early Winter, Hiawatha Island, Owego, New York

Artist: Thomas Doughty (American, 1793-1856)

Date: 1853
Medium: Oil on canvas
Framed: 29 1/8 x 38 x 3 3/4in. (74 x 96.5 x 9.5cm)
Overall: 19 7/8 x 28 15/16in. (50.5 x 73.5cm)
Signed: Lower right (in gray paint): 'T DOUGHTY'
Inscribed: According to Takach (p. 30) a canvas stamp was visible on verso of original canvas: "Williams, Stevens & Williams/ 353 Broadway/ New York" prior to lining of canvas. This firm was at 353 Broadway between 1851-59.
Credit Line: Museum Purchase, with Additional Funds provided by the Marx Q. Cristman Family Fund, a Bequest from Molly N. and Warren C. Ramshaw, and Kathleen and Scott Cristman.
Object number: 2006.10
Label Text
This work was painted around 1852 when Doughty was living in the town of Owego, New York on the north bank of the Susquehanna River about twenty miles west of Binghamton. It depicts a southwesterly view across the river with a partial view in the right middle ground of an island that, during Doughty's life, was known either as Great Island, Big Island or Crater's Island. Later in the century it was called Haiwatha Island because a hotel, called Haiwatha House, was built there. Despite the island's popularity among residents of that area only a few other nineteenth century artists made pictures of it.

Many of Doughty's paintings do not depict such specific scenes or have such correspondingly specific titles. In this respect, the picture can be linked with a small group of other site-specific New York State scenes in the Museum's collection by Doughty's contemporaries: Edward Gay (1837-1928), John William Hill (1812-79), Henry Inman (1801-46), David Johnson (1827-1908), and Ferdinand Richardt (1819-95). Another noteworthy feature of the work's subject is that it is the most important winter scene in the Museum's collection of nineteenth-century American paintings. The work's gray, overcast sky and the highlights of frost that he painted throughout the work reflect the knowledge of an artist who has personally experienced an upstate New York winter.

Historical documents indicate that the work was painted for an Owego family in whose possession it remained for more that 120 years. It has all the stylistic features that are usually found in Doughty's late pictures: a panoramic vista, the winding recessional line of the river that leads the viewer's eye into the distance, the dark patch of land in the foreground, and the arched stokes that create the shape and structure of the branches on the tree at the left of the composition. Other late paintings also include figures like the hunter and dog depicted in this work.

Paul D. Schweizer

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