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The Residence of Thomas Hillborn

1845-1847
Origin: America, Pennsylvania, Bucks County
Unframed: 23 5/8 x 31 7/8in. (60 x 81cm) and Framed: 30 3/4 x 39 1/8in.
Oil on canvas
Museum Purchase
Acc. No. 1961.101.1
A farm scene showing, in the foreground, a man plowing behind a team of two horses, the three moving from lower left to middle right, following the edge of dark brown plowed earth that, visually, creates a diagonal thrust through the composition, contrasting with the green vegetation beside it. Six horned cattle stand or lie in the lower left corner; another brown horned cow stands in the lower right corner, in the plowed part of the field. In the middle distance, a fence separates the field from a farmhouse and several outbuildings, where other animals are depicted along with several people engaged in chores and a covered, unhitched wagon. Several trees dot the back of the middle ground. A distant, pink-tinged horizon is visible beyond.

The 3 3/16-inch, splayed, walnut frame is original and has an outer bead.

The Farmscape: In foreground, a man is plowing with two chestnut horses along furrows of earth leading off to the right. A brown cow stands in the plowed area in the lower right corner, and four cows and a bull lie or stand in the lower left corner, with a rooster and hen pull at worms in the earth near the farmer's feet. These figures are silhouetted against a green area, above which in the center of the canvas and mid-distance is a post and rail fence. To the far left is a large Pennsylvania type barn, with a mare and foal in the pasture in front of it. In the barnyard in the center are pigs, sheep, a wagon, a small shed with a man walking out of it, a man with a wheelbarrow, a pond with a man fishing in it, and two men standing behind it, a cow and calf to the right, with a woman carrying a bucket walking towards it. There are several oak trees in the yard with some of their leaves turning gold in color. The two-story farm house is on the far right surrounded by four tall cypress trees. A woman stands in the front door, and there is a small gate in the fence in front of the door, and ducks on the far side of the fence.
Label:The Hillborn family farmhouse was built in 1792-1793 and, as of 1988, was still standing near Newtown, Pennsylvania. Edward Hicks's view of the place was the first of seven farmscapes that he painted during the last years of his life. Family descendants have identified the man at the plow as Thomas Hillborn, while his wife, Margaret, stands in the door of the house. The other figures are believed to be their children. Daughter Sarah is seen near the end of the house by the watering hole with a pail in her hand, while sons thomas, Joseph, Mahlon, Cyrus, and Samuel are seen at various tasks in the background.

Per an inscription on one of the stretchers, the view was intended to show the farm as it looked in 1821, which was the year that Thomas was forced to sell the homestead to satisfy a debt. Thomas's son, Cyrus, commissioned the painting from Hicks in 1845. In January 1846 in a letter to Hicks, Cyrus, then a successful merchant in Philadelphia, expressed regrets about ever having left Bucks County. On March 4, 1846, he banished these misgivings by buying the farm back.


Provenance:Cyrus Hillborn, Newtown, Pa.; to his brother, Samuel Hillborn; to his son, Isaac Hillborn; to his daughter, Martha Hillborn Tomlinson; to her children: Ruth, Caroline, Ella, Anna, and Harvey Hillborn Tomlinson.
Inscription(s):In large ink or black-painted letters on the top member of the original stretchers, now stored off the painting at AARFAM, is "Purchased by his son Cyrus Hillborn in 1845, when/this Picture was painted, by Edward Hicks in his 66th year." Inscribed in a similar manner on the bottom stretcher is "The Residence of Thomas Hillborn in Newtown Township/Bucks County Pennsylvania, in the Year 1821."

The above inscriptions are not in Hicks's hand and probably were added later by someone in the Hillborn family.