Thomas Hovenden

Thomas Hovenden
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.

4 Replies to “Thomas Hovenden”

  1. Thanks for this lovely reference to Thomas Hovenden. He is my great-great uncle and I have spent the last 15 years trying to gather more information about him. I am a watercolor artist and now want to try oils…must be in the genes!
    My maternal grandmother was Lucy Hovenden Wood, the daughter of his brother.

    – Would love to see something about Carter Goodrich…had done many New Yorker covers and is a marvelous illustrator.

    1. Thanks, Susan. I think Hovenden is under-appreciated. Hopefully his relationship with Henry Tanner and the new Tanner exhibit at PAFA may bring him to light more. I hope you do continue in the family tradition!

      Here is my 2011 post on Carter Goodrich.

  2. I live in the District of Columbia and have acquired a black ink etching depicting an african-american barber holding a barber’s blade in his hand. He is standing in what seems to be a barber’s salon. There is a watermark of a mortar and pedastal in the left hand bottom corner outside of the depiction. The artist’s name is signed in ink and dated by thos. hovenden 1886. I would like to make sure of its authenicity and would like to know how to go about it. I am willing to travel with it perhaps to some of the museums that are showcasing his work.

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