United States, North America
(Without frame): 8 x 22 in. (20.3 x 55.9 cm)
Long-term Loan from the Estate of Boris Blick, 2015
First conceived as a photograph, this etching represents the collaboration of two artists for the sake of preserving the idyllic, pastoral landscape. Additionally, this work was created in the midsts of a revival of etching and printmaking. Most notably revived in France between 1850 and 1880, etchings were believed by many artists to be an original art form with the potential to combat mass reproductive graphics and photographs. Millspaugh’s etching of Johnson’s photograph aids the longevity of the subject, elevating this easily reproducible photograph into a singular work.
The photographer responsible for the form is Clifton Johnson, who was born in Hadley, Massachusetts in the small village of Hockanum, situated alongside the Connecticut River. Committed to the physical surroundings of his youth, Johnson’s love for the rural areas of New England influenced his interest in writing and artistic endeavors. Photographing Hadley, Hockanum and other villages of Western Massachusetts, Johnson focused most on farmers and their daily routine and rural children at play and in school. While enchanted with the rural New England region of his childhood, Johnson traveled the country and the world, photographing all he saw. Later publishing these photographs in his own articles and books, his most popular book series, Highways and Byways of America served as a guide to all of the states with the exception of Alaska and Hawaii.
Artist John Hill Millspaugh is responsible for reproducing and reforming Johnson’s photograph into this etching. Similar to Johnson, Millspaugh grew up alongside a river as he was Born in Crawford, New York by the Hudson. When he was 16 years old, Millspaugh traveled to New York City, working as an apprentice to a stereotyper, in which he created relief plates of metal from original woodcuts. Trained in highly detailed work, he was invited to join the New York Etching Club in 1882, exhibiting in the group’s annual shows. The etchings he produced during this time were predominantly quiet rural landscapes, many of which were directly inspired by artists such as Johnson.
Having both grown up near a river in rural surroundings, it is possible the two men were partial to quiet subject of a fisherman walking home after a long day. The etching’s muted colors mirror the simple quiet of the fisherman’s rural surroundings. Here, land and and sky are seen here as equally expansive, evoking a sense of freedom from fast-paced, urban modernity. As the color and texture of the paper mingle with Millspaugh’s etchings, an ethereal time of day and landscape is established. Different layers of the composition are softly defined as the etchings appear lighter and lighter in the distance. Doubly synthesizing the work of two artists as well as two artistic mediums, Fisherman Walking Up Path to Farmhouse reveals the extent to which we wish to remember quiet moments of America’s past.
—Stephanie Holstein ('18)
Signed "John Hill Millspaugh (1822-1894), Etchr"
Boris Blick Collection