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Noah's Ark

1865-1872
Origin: America, New York
Unframed: 25 3/4 x 26 3/4in. (65.4 x 67.9cm) and Framed: 27 1/2 x 28 1/2in.
Oil on wood panel
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1957.101.8
Five human figures are grouped at left front with a variety of animals, some in pairs by species, shown across the front of the picture plane. Behind them, other paired animals troop along a gang plank leading into a large wooden, roofed boat (the "ark"). A dead tree on which birds perch frames the left side of the picture; other birds fly through the air. Palm-type trees and other exotic flora fill the right side of the picture. Mountains are shown in the distance behind the ark. The sky, yellow at the horizon line with blue above and lavender-tinted clouds, suggests evening or morning.
The 3-inch black-painted cove-molded frame is a modern replacement.
Label:This landscape scene showing the biblical story of Noah and his family preparing for the Flood and the loading of the ark with animals originally served as a fireboard in a farmhouse near Troy, New York. Several other decorative paintings on wood signed by the artist were found in the same house. According to a former owner, Hidley was paid one dollar a day and room and board for the work he did in the house after it was built about 1865. (See note 1).
No specific print source has been identified for Hidley's painting, although it is likely that he was inspired by some such illustration. His painted version has an almost surreal quality due to the vast empty and pastel-colored atmospheric space immediately behind the ark and the blasted tree trunk to the left. Noah is the only figure in the group facing the viewer, and his open mouth gives the impression that he is, in fact, addressing the viewer. Hidley used a variety of positions for the animals along the lower edge, perhaps to demonstrate his ability in portraying their lifelike movements and gestures. The towering palmetto-type trees and the large exotic plant beside them are picked out in the same shades of green seen in the artist's other paintings. Of his known panel pictures, this ranks among the important examples because of the fine brushwork anad the choice of subject.
Provenance:In 1915, purchased by Harold Cranston, Troy, NY, from Paul Springer, occupant and owner of the farmhouse in which this painting originally served as a fireboard; to William A. Morrill, Jr., Poestenkill, NY; to Harry Stone, New York, NY; to J. Stuart Halladay and Herrel George Thomas, Sheffield, Mass.; to M. Knoedler & Co., New York, NY.