Tuesday, December 01, 2020

An eye for detail

A suggestion I read the other day proposed that we spend a little time during these troublesome days focused on the details of objects around us rather than our symptoms, real or imagined.

So I did that yesterday at the museum after carrying an armful of new garment bags and hangers over to the A.J. Stephens House.

This small portrait of Russell's Eugene A. Smith (1859-1940) had hung for years in a dim corner of the front parlor, blending into the heavy red flock wallpaper behind it. But it recently moved upstairs to the gentleman's bedroom, where there's more light and plain walls.

I'm guessing the portrait was taken about the time of Mr. Smith's marriage during 1885 to Carrie W. Lutz (1863-1957), but I was actually more interested in the frame than the image.

The frame probably is workaday pine, but it has been faux grained and trimmed in gold, then an elaborate border incised into it, cutting into and exposing the color of the base wood. The style generally is called Eastlake.

The background here still is dark, but in order to catch the afternoon sun streaming in through the bay window I'd put in down on the silk and velvet crazy-patch quilt on the bed in that room.


Eugene Smith was born during 1859 in Ohio and arrived in Iowa when 3 years old with his parents and siblings. The family located on a farm east of Russell during 1864 and he lived near or in Russell for the remainder of his life. There were two sons, Guy and Howard. The portrait came into the collection at about the time of Howard's death during 1967.

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