R.A.H. (againstathorn) wrote,

David Gilmour Blythe - Corn Husking, ca. 1863–64

corn husking 1

If I were pressed to name an American equivalent to William Hogarth, David Gilmour Blythe would be my first answer. Both painters were political satirists whose works displayed a contemptuous view of human nature and strove to expose social injustices. No matter how dismal the subject matter, with the likes of Hogarth and Blythe there's always some gallows humor to be found.

Well, for the most part.

Blythe is perhaps most well-known for his striking depictions of children, who are usually shown drinking, gambling, fighting, and partaking in various other activities which would not seem alien to Brouwer's barflies, making reference to yesterday's Art for the Month of June artist. On occasion Blythe's children even appear grotesque and trollish, yet they always seem to exhibit an intelligence which places them on par with adults. At times it's difficult to decipher whether he intended these works as cautionary tales or just pointed depictions of streetlife. The work of photographers Lewis Hine and Larry Clark both come to mind—a truly awkward combination!

Corn Husking is a particularly grim Blythe painting which I had the pleasure of viewing up close at the MET. The overall scene is disparaging enough, especially given the ominous choice of lighting, but the details, included below, are almost frightening. One could option that Blythe meant this piece as a condemnation of child labor, but it seems his children are too occupied fighting among themselves to do any actual work anyway. Perhaps he intended to portray his youngsters as being forced to violence on account of these working conditions and their apparent lack of proper education, or maybe this was just an unsympathetic study of those damn kids who wouldn't get off his lawn. Either way, I'm sure Hogarth would approve.

Blythe was primarily active in Pittsburgh and the Carnegie holds an impressive collection of his work.

corn husking 2

corn husking 3
Tags: art for the month of june
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