Sugaring Off (Paperback)
The Maple Sugar Paintings of Eastman Johnson
Clark Art Institute, 9780300103519, 56pp.
Publication Date: January 11, 2004
This lovely book provides the first comprehensive examination of Eastman Johnson’s vivid paintings of a quintessential New England theme—the making of maple sugar. This series of pictures, executed during the 1860s, is perhaps the most ambitious project in the artist’s career.
Brian T. Allen discusses the ways in which Johnson’s maple sugar paintings reflect a New England on the edge of vast changes, both in the technology of farming and in the social structures of small communities. He notes how Johnson conveys the tense, shifting relationship that existed between industrial innovation and New England’s distinctive brand of community spirit, evident through maple sugar’s close association with free labor, as opposed to cane sugar’s connection with slavery.
Presented here in full color, Johnson’s maple sugar paintings are both a celebration of New England and a commentary on a bygone era.
About the Author
Brian T. Allen is curator of American art and director of curatorial administration at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute.