L. O. Griffith 1875–1956

Untitled (Late Afternoon on the Farm)

, circa 1900s

Oil on canvas, 20 by 18 inches


L. O. Griffith’s farm scene is set at day’s end, as a red-shirted figure drives cattle toward the open door of a barn adjacent to a modest country house. Hanging laundry and smoke curling from the brick chimney add further notes of peaceful domesticity. The worn wood-frame structures are set against a dark mass of trees that partly screen the sunset; the almost denuded tops of two other trees form a lacy network against the fading sky. The painting’s vertical format confines the view to the farmhouse and barn, complementing its sheltered setting and suggesting the self-sufficient isolation of rural life.

Both the date of Griffith’s painting and its original title are unknown. Although the humble weather-beaten farm buildings resemble those of picturesque Brown County, Indiana, where the artist began working in 1907, the painting differs stylistically from his mature Brown County paintings, which feature bright, expressive color broadly applied in powerful brushstrokes. This work, in contrast, is characterized by a restrained delicacy of touch and naturalistic color muted by the end-of-day setting, suggesting an earlier date. Perhaps it was inspired by a summer excursion undertaken with Chicago’s Palette and Chisel Club, which Griffith joined in 1903. That year, club members ventured as far as Canada; in 1904 they worked in Benton Harbor, Michigan, and the following year, they established a camp of their own at Fox Lake, some fifty miles northwest of Chicago.

Wendy Greenhouse, PhD

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