FRANCIS WILLIAMS EDMONDS (1806 - 1863)
Seated in the humble abode of a protective father, a young man dressed in a jacket and slacks, converses with a young woman with the hope of pursuing a courtship. The woman tilts her head modestly, as if embarrassed by the words of her suitor. The couple appears to have established an intimate connection, but they are not alone. The father, seated on the left, has his back slightly turned away from the couple, avoiding direct interference. Yet, his seeming detachment from the conversation belies the uneasiness of his pose, and physical proximity of his presence. He glances over his shoulder with a sidelong look, while stoking the embers in the cast iron stove and gazing impatiently at the young couple. Without opening his mouth, we can read his mind. “Young man, I think it’s ‘time to go’.”
Genre paintings were quite prominent in American art by the mid - 19th century. This was attributed to a rising middle class, in which men, women, and children played a prominent role in the daily economic life of American society. Scenes of everyday life were featured in magazines and reproduced in the popular print media, which made them accessible to the masses. In terms of earlier antecedents, the tradition of genre painting had its roots in 17th - century Dutch painting, which often depicted a thriving merchant class enjoying the daily life afforded them by thriving trade and commerce. The town of Hudson, in upstate New York, where Edmonds was raised, preserved many features of Dutch society, including displays of civic and private virtue. For example, the painting by Edmonds draws parallels to Gabriel Metsu’s The Intruders, c. 1660, and Gerard ter Borch the Younger’s, The Suitor’s Visit, c. 1658. In all three paintings, a male suitor appeals to a woman in the presence of other family members, expressing sentiments of love and familial bonds.
Francis Williams Edmonds was born in 1806 and raised in the town of Hudson in upstate New York. Edmonds was discouraged from studying art, but his parents tolerated his ongoing interest in the field. By the age of thirteen, Edmonds experimented with painting techniques, and tried working from nature. He desired to become an engraver, but he could not afford the fees for an apprenticeship. Encouraged to pursue a more practical profession, Edmonds entered banking in 1823 when his uncle, Gorham A. Worth, secured a position for him at the Tradesmen’s Bank in New York City. By 1826, Edmonds resumed his art studies. He took evening classes at the Antique School at the National Academy of Design, and later exhibited his work in the National Academy of Design’s annual exhibitions. After traveling to Europe with fellow American artists Asher B. Durand and John Kensett, Edmonds resumed his life in the states. He re-married and continued to paint, but only sparingly, due to the demands of the banking profession.
Edmonds was a strong proponent of genre painting, a tradition that has its roots in 17th - century Netherlandish art. In 1840, Edmonds submitted two paintings to the National Academy of Design that focused on the theme of courting. Sparking (1839) and The City and the Country Beaux (c.1839) relate to his later work in the Museum’s collection, but also recall paintings by 17th - century Dutch artists Gabriel Metsu and Gerard ter Borch the Younger.
Gerard ter Borch the Younger, The Suitor's Visit, c.1658; Gabriel Metsu, The Intruder, c.1660; Francis William Edmonds, The City and the Country Beaux, c.1839.
Francis Edmonds’ painting Time to Go depicts courtship during the 19th century. When looking at the painting by Edmonds, how does courting compare to dating in today’s society? For example, is it still customary for young men to get the approval from the father before dating his daughter? Compare the painting by Edmonds to Gerard ter Borch the Younger’s The Suitor’s Visit. How are the paintings similar? How are they different?