Overall: 41 x 16 x 14 in. ( 104.1 x 40.6 x 35.6 cm )
signed: proper left side of base: "JOHN ROGERS/NEW YORK' inscribed: front of base: "BUBBLES" inscribed: back of base: "PATENTED OCT 10 1873"
Bubbles represents a new venture in full-size works for the home that Rogers hoped would equal his success in small sculptures. His wife, Hattie, wrote in early 1873 that he was experimenting with a more sizable figure, "for niches perhaps," noting that "he is often asked for them." For his subject Rogers modeled a boy standing with one foot on a step blowing bubbles. The artist began with his two-year-old son Charlie as his sitter but must have departed from his likeness, since Hattie later noted that it was not an accurate portrait of the child. The figure is rendered at life size, forty inches high, nearly twice as large as Rogers' previous works. Faced with the problem of creating compositional interest with a single figure, the sculptor introduced stairs to give the boy a dynamic pose and created a diagonal running from the boy's soapy bowl to his pipe with the bubble growing from it. The foliage at the boy's feet offers a visual echo of the grass and plantings that would surround the figure in a garden setting. When Rogers was in Rome thirteen years before, he had complained of the lack of imagination shown by his fellow sculptors there: "They just make a graceful figure and call it anything." Rogers did not wish to confine himself to technical virtuosity alone but wanted to endow his works with a sense of narrative and a connection to American life. In this case, he did so by showing a child engaged in a common pastime. However, throughout his career Rogers showed an interest in antique sculpture, and subtle classical influences can be seen in his work. Here, the boy's smock covers his contemporary shirt and shorts and falls in elegant folds that call to mind classical drapery. His hair, too, with its beautifully tousled curls, resembles that of a Greek sculpture rather than the clearly contemporary hairstyles seen in Rogers' depiction of three of his children (Charlie in the middle) in Playing Doctor of the same year (1932.98, 1936.633). Unfortunately, Rogers' hopes for a new branch of popular sculpture were not realized. Sales for Bubbles were slow, perhaps because, priced at $35, copies were much more expensive than his smaller works, which cost $12 to $25. Because few were made, examples of this group are now extremely rare.
Article, Scrapbooks of miscellaneous clippings, etc. about John Rogers, Vols. 1, 3, 4, New York Historical Society. The Evening Post, New York, Nov. 10, 1873, p. 2. Barck, Dorothy, "Rogers Group in the Museum of the New-York Historical Society", New-York Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. XVI, No. 3, October, 1932, p. 74. Smith, Mrs. and Mrs. Chetwood, Rogers Groups: Thought and Wrought by John Rogers, Boston: Charles E. Goodspeed & Co., 1934, pp.78-9. Wallace, David H., John Rogers, The People's Sculptor, Middleton, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1967, pp. 149, 233-4. Bleier, Paul and Meta, John Rogers Statuary, Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2001, pp. 44, 140-1.
Gift of Mr. Samuel V. Hoffman
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.