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Catalog entry

inv. 11
The Babson Meadows at Riverdale
Riverdale; View of Riverdale
Oil on canvas
22 x 35 3/4 in. (55.9 x 90.8 cm)
Signed and dated Signed and dated lower right: F. H. Lane 1863
On view at the Cape Ann Museum


Like Fitz Henry Lane’s Babson and Ellery Houses, Gloucester, 1863 (inv. 10), this picture belonged to the Babson family and was painted for Emmeline (Emma) Rogers Babson and Maria Babson, daughters of Nathaniel and Emmeline Davis Rogers Babson. It shows the view from behind the Babson family homestead, looking out over Poplar Street and the Riverdale marshes.

In the foreground, a wagon heavily laden with hay is shown, alluding to the Babsons’ involvement over the years in the haying business. Poplar Street, which led from Washington Street to Fox Hill (now known as Cherry Street), is delineated by a fieldstone wall, each rock of which Lane has drawn and painted in painstaking detail. In the distance can be seen the Methodist Church and Riggs School, which made up the core of the Riverdale neighborhood. To the right in the distance is Dogtown, the great hogback that makes up the center of Cape Ann. To the left is the large granite outcropping known as Pole’s Hill. A woman can be seen walking along Poplar Street and the head of a man is just visible over the top of the wagonload of hay.

The Babson Meadows at Riverdale has much in common with other works done by Lane during this final chapter of his life. Attention to detail is meticulous, made possible by the rendering of a detailed pencil drawing on the canvas by Lane before paint application. The grandeur of the natural world dominates the canvas, dwarfing man-made intrusions. And the entire scene is bathed in a phosphorescent light that endows the painting with a serene and timeless feel.

The 1860s was a period of change throughout Gloucester and Cape Ann. Fishing took over from foreign trade as the primary business, the population continued to diversify as people from faraway lands filtered in, and many families who had lived in the community for generations sold their land, packed their belongings, and headed West in search of new opportunities. The Babson sisters were part of that westward migration, leaving Gloucester in the late 1860s bound for California, where the lumber and fishing trades were prospering.

The paintings Fitz Henry Lane made for Emma and Maria Babson of their bucolic family homestead ensured that the women would always remember Gloucester and that visitors to their new home would have a sense of their family’s accomplishments back in New England.

– Martha Oaks

Related Work in the Catalog

Supplementary Images

Infrared image (detail)
Photo: Marcia Steele, Cleveland Museum of Art
© Cape Ann Museum
Infrared image (detail)
Photo: Marcia Steele, Cleveland Museum of Art
© Cape Ann Museum
infrared image (detail)
Photo: Marcia Steele, Cleveland Museum of Art
© Cape Ann Museum
Infrared image (detail)
Photo: Marcia Steele, Cleveland Museum of Art
© Cape Ann Museum

Provenance (Information known to date; research ongoing.)

the Artist, Gloucester, Mass.
Emma Rogers Babson (Mrs. William Friend) and Maria Babson, Gloucester, Mass., 1863
Roger W. Babson, Gloucester, Mass.
Cape Ann Museum, Gloucester, Mass., 1937

Exhibition History

DeCordova Museum, Lincoln, Massachusetts, Fitz Hugh Lane: The First Major Exhibition, March 20–April 17, 1966., no. 57, View of Riverdale.
Traveled to: Colby College Art Museum, Waterville, Maine, April 30–June 6, 1966.
National Gallery of Art, Washington, District of Columbia, Paintings by Fitz Hugh Lane, May 15–September 5, 1988., no. 19, ill. in color, p.15, Riverdale.
Traveled to: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Mass., October 5–December 31, 1988.

Published References

Wilmerding, John. Fitz Hugh Lane, 1804–1865: American Marine Painter. Salem, MA: The Essex Institute, 1964., fig. 10, p. 51, text, p. 36, View of Riverdale.
Wilmerding, John. Fitz Hugh Lane: The First Major Exhibition. Lincoln, MA: De Cordova Museum; in association with Colby College Art Museum, 1966., no. 57, View of Riverdale. ⇒ includes text
Wilmerding, John. Nineteenth Century American Painting. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1970.
Wilmerding, John. Fitz Hugh Lane. New York: Praeger, 1971.
Wilmerding, John, ed. American Light: The Luminist Movement, 1850–1875. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art, 1980., pp. 111, 116, Riverdale.
Wilmerding, John. Paintings by Fitz Hugh Lane. Washington, DC: National Gallery of Art; in association with Harry N. Abrams, 1988., no. 19, ill. in color, p.15, Riverdale.
Worley, Sharon. "Fitz Hugh Lane and the Legacy of the Codfish Aristocracy." Historical Journal of Massachusetts 32, no. 1 (Winter 2004)., p. 73. ⇒ includes text
Wilmerding, John. Fitz Henry Lane. Gloucester, MA: Cape Ann Historical Association, 2005. Reprint of Fitz Hugh Lane, by John Wilmerding. New York: Praeger, 1971. Includes new information regarding the artist's name., pl. ix, Riverdale.
Craig, James. Fitz H. Lane: An Artist's Voyage through Nineteenth-Century America. Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2006., pl. 22, Riverdale.
Citation: "The Babson Meadows at Riverdale, 1863 (inv. 11)." Fitz Henry Lane Online. Cape Ann Museum. http://fitzhenrylaneonline.org/catalog/entry.php?id=11 (accessed May 22, 2019).
Record last updated March 6, 2017. Please note that the information on this and all pages is periodically reviewed and subject to change.
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