A delightful 19th C genre painting done in the style of Ben Austrian and Mary Russell Smith's classic barnyard chicken paintings. However, this piece has an undeniably Southern twist - these chicks are pecking at the traditional Gulf Coast delicacies of crayfish and mussels. This is a charming example of American folk painting.
Nature and its creatures held a special fascination for the Victorians. Poetry, literature, floriography (the language of flowers), and painting were all employed to express a love of nature and an acceptance of the natural cycles of life, common themes in Victorian times - as here where tiny chicks feast on the discarded carcass of a crayfish, life and nature renewing.
The paintings of Ben Austrian and Mary Russell Smith, specifically their paintings of innocent chicks, have long been favorites and regularly sell for many thousands of dollars- So it's no wonder that this theme would find its way into the popular culture of the time.
CONDITION is good with some exceptions that are documented in the photographs. There is some crackle to the paint in the sky, most visible above the chicks; and there is a bit of flaking at the bottom right corner just above the filet. The deep American walnut frame shows some dings, and the striped gold filet shows some surface loss at upper left and lower right corners. Measures 16" x 13 7/8" overall with a sight size of 11 5/8" x 9 5/8", the painting on its stretchers measures 12" x 10". Measures 3 1/2" deep from the back of the painting to the front of the deep walnut frame, with the painting and inner filet extending beyond the frame.
All in all, this is a wonderful old folk painting, its faults badges of its 120 or so years. - I like to think of them as 'romantic decay,' and often, as in this case, I find the touch of time irresistible. Enjoy!
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