A Frolic At The Old Homestead
Overall: 22 x 16 x 14 in. ( 55.9 x 40.6 x 35.6 cm )
signed: top of base: "JOHN ROGERS/NEW YORK/1887" inscribed: top back of base- obscured by paint: "PATENTED MA 188.." inscribed: front of base: "A FROLIC/AT THE/OLD HOMESTEAD"
As Rogers grew older, he no doubt became aware of the generational distinctions between himself, his aging parents, and his growing children, and some of his later works depict intergenerational dynamics. Here, a venerable woman is at the center of a spirited young people's game in A Frolic at the Old Homestead. Rogers' sales catalogue describes how "The Young Folks are having a game of Blind-Man's-Buff around the old Grandmother's chair." Though the group was released in the spring of 1887, it received a great deal of attention as a Christmas gift later that year. One writer declared, "The scene is eminently suggestive of the good cheer which ought to prevail in every well-regulated home about this holiday time." The scene could easily be interpreted as a family group that has reunited for the holidays. Three young people, informally dressed, are engaged in a boisterous game that circles around the presumed matriarch, who looks over her spectacles with a bemused expression. Not only did Rogers make her the center of the composition, he depicted her safely ensconced in a comfortable chair, warmly wrapped in a shawl and cap, with her feet up on a stool and surrounded by her loving grandchildren. Rogers' career had spanned more than a quarter century, and his audience was growing older as well; one might imagine the grandmother as one of the artist's loyal customers, and he could not have created a more appealing subject than an idealized vision of the members of an extended family coming home, with her as the center of fun-loving attention. Paradoxically, this gentle and innocuous depiction of private life is also an example of a daring turn in the artist's style. His later compositions became more complex and incorporated more figures. Here, a total of four figures are present, and the young people at their game form a complex ballet of poses and gestures around the venerable lady. The young man in the blindfold reaches across her to try and catch the girl on the other side of the chair. She is pulled just out of his reach by another young man who is about to distract the "blind man" with a wave of his handkerchief. The composition shows Rogers at the peak of his technical powers, but this was his last truly popular group.
Articles, Scrapbooks of miscellaneous clippings, etc. about John Rogers, Vols. 1, 2, 4, New York Historical Society. 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. Wallace, David H., John Rogers, The People's Sculptor, Middleton, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1967, pp. 114, 178, 255, 294. Smith, Mrs. and Mrs. Chetwood, Rogers Groups: Thought and Wrought by John Rogers, Boston: Charles E. Goodspeed & Co., 1934, pp.94-5. Wallace, David H., "The Art of John Rogers: So Real and So True," American Art Journal, November, 1972, pp. 59-70. Bleier, Paul and Meta, John Rogers Statuary, Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2001, pp. 200-1.
Gift of Mr. Samuel V. Hoffman
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.