Hide and Seek
Painted plaster with ferrous metal
Overall: 47 x 20 x 17 in. ( 119.4 x 50.8 x 43.2 cm )
signed: front of base: "JOHN ROGERS/NEW YORK" inscribed: front of base: "HIDE AND SEEK" inscribed: back of treestump: "PATENTED MAR 2 1875"
During a period of experimentation in the early 1870s, Rogers attempted full-size figures, beginning with Bubbles (1929.110) in 1872. A few years later, Rogers produced this pair of figures that represented a bold experiment from technical, commercial, and aesthetic standpoints. Rogers made Hide and Seek: Whoop! first, featuring a young girl modeled after his daughter Katherine Rebecca. She stands behind a tree stump, her face peeking from behind the vase, about to give the cry signaling that she has hidden and the game can begin. The following year Rogers released the companion piece, Hide and Seek, depicting a boy removing the hat that covered his eyes while his playmate hid. Harry Stimson posed for the boy; his parents were longtime friends of Rogers and summer residents of New Canaan, Connecticut, where Rogers spent considerable time beginning in 1860. The boy stands with his head tilted, listening for the "Whoop" that will send him searching. Not only are the figures intended to be seen in three dimensions and on all sides, but they also function dialogically across space-which could be a large space, if the owner had ample room. This enhances the figures' sense of arrested time, which was dependent on how the viewer encountered them in relation to each other; they most vividly suggest a suspended moment, as both figures are poised to begin their part of the game. Rogers worked for years, both before and after developing this pair, to create a type of "composition stone" that would be light and durable when exposed to the elements. He realized that an outdoor sculpture involved new practical considerations; he offered cast-iron pedestals to protect the figures from the damp, cold ground. Both statues included vases that drained into a cup in the back. His catalogues guaranteed potential buyers that if they followed his guidelines, the figures would not suffer from changing weather conditions. For years Rogers' sculptures won praise for their meticulous detail, but the sudden move from table sculpture to life-size scale (forty-six and forty-nine inches tall) raised a difficult question: was his realism still art or merely verisimilitude? Rogers exhibited Whoop! at the National Academy of Design in 1874. He was selective about the sculptures he sent there, and his choice to submit Whoop! indicates that he definitely considered it a work of art. At least one critic disagreed. The writer for the New York Tribune felt the artist was "straying out of bounds. His life-size statues, though creditable in motive, and trying to deal naturally with every-day subjects, are not statues at all; they are simply figures in clay, which is quite another thing." A Philadelphia writer expressed his admiration of Whoop! along with his discomfort: "She is a little too realistic to stand out in the rain, without making one feel like holding an umbrella over her." In offering his works as garden ornaments, Rogers entered a new market that was overtly oriented toward decoration rather than art. In fact, when the pair was displayed at James S. Earle's art gallery in Philadelphia, they were surrounded by flowers and shrubs with grass underneath. By placing them in their intended setting, the gallery graphically demonstrated their decorative function. Geyer's Stationer, a publication for the book and paper trade, encouraged proprietors to "look out around their customers and keep track of the improvements they are making, and help to cultivate a taste for ornamenting both the inside and out of homes as the owners accumulate wealth," suggesting the Hide and Seek pair as just such a tasteful enhancement. The writer's reference to wealthier customers was on point. In a departure from his customary practice of "large sales and small profits," Rogers priced the figures at fifty dollars each, twice the price of his most expensive groups, and an additional ten dollars for pedestals. Rogers pushed the boundaries of his oeuvre in size, price, and function, hoping that he would make his fortune on these large, outdoor sculptures; however, they sold poorly. Perhaps they were too expensive for his usual middle-class customers, and they lacked the fine art status that had distinguished his work as an affordable art for the people. Today examples of the Hide and Seek pair are quite rare.
Articles, Scrapbooks of miscellaneous clippings, etc. about John Rogers, Vols. 1, 3, 4, New York Historical Society. "Art Notes," New York Daily Graphic, Jan. 8, 1877, p. 3. "The Arts," Appleton's Journal, Vol. 13, Issue 308, Feb. 13, 1875, pp. 216-7. "Art and Artists," Daily Evening Transcript, Feb. 18, 1875, p. 6. "Art Notes," The Evening Post, New York, Feb. 22, 1875, p. 1. Daily Evening Transcript, Boston, Feb. 25, 1976, p. 6. 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. 76. Smith, Mrs. and Mrs. Chetwood, Rogers Groups: Thought and Wrought by John Rogers, Boston: Charles E. Goodspeed & Co., 1934, pp.80-1. Wallace, David H., John Rogers, The People's Sculptor, Middleton, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1967, pp. 114, 149-50, 235-7, 240, 290, 295, 297, 300. Bleier, Paul and Meta, John Rogers Statuary, Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2001, pp. 44, 148-9.
Gift of Mr. Samuel V. Hoffman
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.