January 20, 2008

Five Paintings Of Creepy Children At The Metropolitan Museum Of Art, New York

Robert Peckham (1785-1877) The Raymond Children, ca. 1838 oil on canvas
"A coach and sign painter and Congregationalist deacon, Peckham executed portraits with keen attention to detail. The interior settings of his pictures are careful delineations of his subjects' homes. Anne Elizabeth Raymond (b. 1832) and Joseph Estabrook Raymond (b.1834) are exquisitely dressed and surrounded by their toys and possessions in the parlor of their family's home in Royalston, Massachusetts." CREEP FACTOR: 6/10
Oliver Tarbell Eddy (1799-1868) The Alling Children, ca. 1839 oil on canvas
"Depicted here are the four oldest children of Stephen Ball Alling (1808-1861), a partner in the New Jersey jewelry firm of Alling, Hall, and Dodd, and Jane H. Weir (1811-1889). From left to right, they are, Stephen Ball (1835-1839), Mary Wilder (b. 1836), Cornelia Meigs (b. 1833), and Emma (b. 1831). The apparent ages of the children date the work to around 1839. The composition indicates that the portrait may have been painted shortly after Stephen's death that same year. His coloristic and spatial separation from his sisters, as well as the pool of light in which he stands support this conclusion. Post mortem portraits were common in the nineteenth century as families often desired likenesses of departed children. The artist painted a posthumous portrait of one of the cousins of the Alling children as well. Eddy's crisp, meticulous detail and vivid color temper somewhat his awkward anatomical drawing, all within a setting that is a document of early Victorian interiors. For group portraits like this one, the lack of interaction or integrated poses make it obvious that Eddy made separate studies of each sitter." CREEP FACTOR: 8.5/10
Joshua Johnson (active ca. 1796-1824) Edward and Sarah Rutter, ca. 1805 oil on canvas
"The first African-American painter with a recognized body of work, Johnson has long been thought to have been a slave who belonged to the Peale family of artists in Baltimore. In fact, Johnson was not a Peale protégé, but an independent artist, the free son of a white man and a black slave. In 1798 he advertised himself in a Baltimore newspaper as "a self-taught genius" who had "experienced many insuperable obstacles in the pursuit of his studies." Johnson learned a great deal about academic portraiture and developed his distinctive style. The air of stillness, of suspended action, in this portrait gives it an unreal, almost magical, quality." CREEP FACTOR: 9/10
Joseph Badger (1708-1765) James Badger, 1760 oil on canvas
"One of the least known colonial portraitists, Joseph Badger was the son of a tailor from Charlestown, near Boston. Although never as popular as his contemporaries, he studied their work and often used their portraits as models for his own pictures. Here, the pose is generally derived from Robert Feke's portrait of John Gerry (Museum of Fine Arts, Houston). James Badger, the artist's grandson, was three years old in 1760." CREEP FACTOR: 5/10
John Singleton Copley (1738-1815) Daniel Crommelin Verplanck, 1771 Oil on canvas
"Daniel Verplanck, scion of a distinguished New York City family, is shown here at the age of nine. In this picture Copley successfully uses, as he had previously, the theme of the young aristocratic figure amusing himself with a pet squirrel on a golden leash. While the squirrel clutches at his leg, the poised sitter keeps the viewer cooly in view. The picture is done in Copley's very best colonial style, remarkable for its keen perception and clarity." CREEP FACTOR: 8/10


stexe said...

"The Alling Children"'s composition, rendering, and symbolism make for maximum creep factor in my opinion.

Lance Ehlers said...

Yeah, you're probably correct. It certainly begs the question "how did the child die, exactly?" Was he murdered? If so, was it in self-defense? He has the soulless gaze of a tiny psychopath, and appears to be thinking, "With this hammer, I will smash jagged red holes in you delicate head while you sleep, and none shall suspect me, for I am only a child."