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Boy in a Landscape

ca. 1840 Unidentified oil on canvas 26 7/8 x 21 7/8 in. (68.2 x 55.7 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of William Boswell in memory of H. Curley Boswell 1973.152.1 Smithsonian American Art Museum
Luce Foundation Center, 3rd Floor, 14B


Luce Center Label

A confident pose marks this young sitter as a fearless boy who is comfortable in the out-of-doors. In mid-nineteenth-century America, society expected different things from boys and girls. Childhood was seen as an important stage in life when girls were encouraged to learn lessons of self-sacrifice and service, while boys were urged to be daring and aggressive. Contemporary books and images portrayed the American boy as fun-loving and independent. After the Civil War, the image of healthy, happy children became even more important to a nation shaken by the loss of its own innocence and confidence (Mintz, Huck’s Raft: A History of American Childhood, 2004; Clapper, “I Was Once a Barefoot Boy!”: Cultural Tensions in a Popular Chromo,” American Art, Summer 2002).

Keywords

Portrait male - unidentified - child

Portrait male - unidentified - waist length

painting

paint - oil

fabric - canvas