View of Almshouse, a painting that tells a story!

View of Almshouse, ca.1900
Image Credit: View of Almshouse, ca.1900, Artist Unknown, oil on canvas, H.24 x W.20.125 inches, James A. Michener Art Museum, Anonymous Gift.

What story do you think the artist was trying to tell in this painting? It tells the story of an event, time, or place, and the  painting can give us specific details. Sometimes we call paintings of this type either a historical or narrative painting. Looking at the painting, can you tell when it was painted? What kinds of activities were the people doing? What kinds of animals did people keep as pets or as work animals? What crops were being grown? How did people travel? What games did children play? What clothes did people wear?

We can look at clues in the painting to give us an idea about the time period.  One big clue is the bicyclist’s clothing.  She is wearing a long skirt, and a top with puffy sleeves that was very popular in the early 1890’s.  Now look at her bike; it is called a Victorian and was made in the 1890’s.  There are other ways of dating paintings that use science to date the materials. These methods are also used to determine the authenticity of a painting-to tell a fake from the real thing!

What we do know is the location that it depicts, which is at the junction of Almshouse Road and Route 6ll North in Warrington, Pennsylvania. What other details can you find in the painting to tell us more about the place or event? Be sure to see it next time you visit the Michener. See it in high resolution on the Google Art Project.

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