When the Museum acquired this painting in 1953, its author was unknown, although it had an undeciphered monogram and was dated ’65 on the canvas. It represents a view of Northampton, with Paradise Pond and the Mill River in the foreground and the Connecticut River and Amherst in the distance. In 1979, Betsy Jones, the Museum’s former curator of painting, finally solved the mystery. She used historic photographs to determine that the “new” high school, with its distinctive cupola-shaped towers shown in the painting, was built in 1864. The hoe factory, erected in 1866, is not present, confirming the painting’s date as 1865. Her research led to the discovery of local newspaper notices of the visit of British artist Thomas Charles Farrer to the Valley in 1865, when he is reported as having completed “two fine pictures, one of Mount Tom and the other of Northampton, from the dome of the Hospital.”
Farrer came to New York in his late teens after studying with art critic John Ruskin and the Pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti. Inspired by their teaching, he formed the Society for the Advancement of Truth in Art to promote the “faithful and loving representation of nature,” which is reflected in this carefully observed portrayal of Northampton and its environs.
Oil on canvas
ID Number: SC 1953:96