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Just in Time

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Just in Time

Artist: Francis W. Edmonds (American, 1806 - 1863)

Date: 1844-1847
Medium: Graphite and white lead paint on wove paper
Overall: 9 1/8 × 11 9/16in. (23.2 × 29.4cm)
Inscribed: Recto, lower center (graphite): "Just in Time" Lower right (graphite): "163" Verso, upper right (cochineal?): "AD6.11617D"
Credit Line: Museum Purchase
Object number: 85.50
Text Entries

The inscription at the bottom of this work, “Just in time,” presumably written by Edmonds,(1) suggests that the drawing was made at one of the meetings of New York’s Artists’ Sketching Club.(2) This group, founded early in 1844, was called by Thomas S. Cummings “one of the most agreeable and instructive little clubs that ever took share in art matters.” Its principal activity took place during weekly gatherings held in the National Academy of Design’s Council Room. “At the designated hour the company sat down to work—everything ready but the ‘subject,’ which was to that moment unknown. ‘It was then given.’ The sketchers were allowed precisely one hour to make their drawing.”(3) Maybelle Mann has suggested that the MWPI drawing depicts the anxiously awaited arrival of a doctor to attend a woman in childbirth. Although plausible, there is no documentary evidence to confirm such a specific interpretation.(4)

H. Nichols B. Clark has noted that the drawing is one of several works that shows Edmonds experimenting with outdoor winter scenes that were the specialty of George H. Durrie (1820-63). It is very similar in design and subject to Durrie’s lost painting, Home to Thanksgiving, reproduced by Currier and Ives in 1867.(5) However, the eight figures and carefully drawn horse are more dynamic than anything made by Durrie. Moreover, the pose and location of the figure at the left: margin who is running out of the composition suggests that the design may have originally extended across the gutter of a sketchbook onto another sheet of paper.(6) Edmonds subsequently reduced the composition to one sheet, framing it with ruled lines on all four edges of the paper that extend through tree branches at the top of the design and the cloak held by the figure at the left.


1. Another Edmonds drawing, “The Trying Hour” (Museum of Fine Arts, Boston), has a similar inscription. See Clark, Francis W. Edmonds, 25, fig. 2.

2. The Artists’ Sketching Club is sometimes confused with the Sketch Club, founded in 1829. See James T. Callow, Kindred Spirits: Knickerbocker Writers and American Artists, 1807-1855 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1967), 12-19.

3. Thomas S. Cummings, Historic Annals of the National Academy of Design (Philadelphia: George W. Childs, 1865), 175-76. Also, Henry P. Rossiter, M. and M. Karolik Collection of American Water Colors and Drawings, 1800-1875 (Boston: Museum of Fine Arts, 1962), 1: 272-75.

4. Mann, Francis William Edmonds, 59. This interpretation was restated by Clark, Francis W. Edmonds, 100. Other artists who interpreted the subject “just in time” are discussed in Henry T. Tuckerman, Book of the Artists (New York: G. P. Putnam and Son, 1870), 227-28. The action depicted in the MWPI drawing does not appear to be related to any scene in Thomas Hurlstone’s comic opera, Just in Time (London: Debrett, 1792).

5. Clark, Francis W. Edmonds, 99-100. Another Durrie painting, Sleighing Party (unlocated), may have had the greatest influence on Edmonds’s drawing because it was exhibited at the National Academy in 1845, around the time Edmonds made the MWPI drawing,

6. The number 163 in the lower right corner of the MWPI sheet may be a sketch-book page number. There is a similar number on another Edmonds drawing, Stir the Mush Three Times (private collection), reproduced in Clark, Francis W Edmonds, 125, fig. 89.


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