The Last Moments of John Brown By Thomas Hovenden - In The Last Moments of John Brown (1882–1884) by Thomas Hovenden, John Brown, the radical abolitionist and architect of the October 1859 raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, descends the stairs at the jailhouse in Charles Town, Virginia, on the way to his execution for treason, murder, and conspiracy. According to a New York Tribune article printed three days after his death, en route to the gallows Brown allegedly planted a kiss on the cheek of an enslaved child. Several works of art recorded the alleged scene over the following quarter century, culminating with Hovenden’s masterly painting, which was commissioned by Robbins Battell, a wealthy businessman from New York. The story of the kiss is almost certainly fictional, but just as the Tribune reporter in 1859 embellished his story to place Brown in a positive light, Hovenden and his patron in the 1880s sought to portray Brown as a sympathetic, kindly old man rather than as a violent criminal. A fantastic and stunning addition to enhance any collection. Frame measures 36 3/8" x 31 3/8". Artist signed and dated.
Hovenden was born in Dunmanway, Co. Cork, Ireland. His parents died at the time of the potato famine and he was placed in an orphanage at the age of six. Apprenticed to a carver and gilder, he studied at the Cork School of Design.
In 1863, he immigrated to the United States. He studied at the National Academy of Design in New York City. He moved to Baltimore in 1868 and then left for Paris in 1874. He studied at the École des Beaux Arts under Cabanel, but spent most of his time with the American art colony at Pont-Aven in Brittany led by Robert Wylie, where he painted many pictures of the peasantry.
Returning to America in 1880, he became a member of the Society of American Artists and an Associate member of the National Academy of Design (elected Academician in 1882). He married Helen Corson in 1881, an artist he had met in Pont-Aven, and settled at her father's homestead in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, outside of Philadelphia. She came from a family of abolitionists and her home was a stop on the Underground Railroad. Their barn, later used as Hovenden's studio, was known as "Abolition Hall" due to its use for anti-slavery meetings.
He was commissioned by Mr. Robbins Battell to paint a historical picture of the abolitionist leader John Brown. He finished The Last Moments of John Brown (now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art) in 1884.
Inventory Number: PRI 048