19th century painter Thomas Hovenden was noted both for his work as an artist and for his role as a teacher at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.
As a painter, Hovenden painted domestic scenes, historical events and to some extent still life subjects. He is noted in particular for his depictions of African Americans, both in domestic and historic contexts, such as his well known depiction of The Last Moments of John Brown (images above, top), now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which has a zoomable high resolution version on the website.
Hovenden’s interest in African American subjects may have stemmed from his wife, artist Helen Corson, who he met while studying at the École des Beaux Arts in Paris. Her family were abolitionists, and the barn on their property that hosted anti-slavery meetings, and as a stop on the underground railroad, later served as Hovenden’s studio.
In 1886 Hovenden was appointed to replace Thomas Eakins as Professor of Painting and Drawing at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts when Eakins was asked to leave amid conflicts with the board of directors over nude models, insubordination and other accusations of “inappropriate behavior”.
Hovenden’s students included such noted artists as Alexander Stirling Calder, Robert Henri and Henry Ossawa Tanner.