Itinerant Artist Scene
Northeastern United States, c. 1845
Colored pencil and water-based media on paper
15 1/8 x 18 ¾ in.
Oliver Wendell Holmes described itinerant artists as “wandering Thugs of Art whose murderous doings with the brush used frequently to involve whole families; who passed from one country tavern to another, eating and painting their way.” He despised the work that still “too frequently” ornamented the walls of taverns and homes. But in the days before photography was widely available, traveling artists offered an affordable and accessible alternative to their academy-trained colleagues. This charming scene full of comical detail shows a family gathered in their kitchen while just such a “thug” begins to paint the eldest son.