Artist Spotlight: Erastus Sailsbury Field

While interning with the Joseph Allen Skinner Museum in South Hadley, MA, I became fascinated with a painting on dispaly at the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum. Located in a permanent gallery, the piece was of a little girl holding a book. The background features a landscape scene with a lake, with a draped column on the left. The girl seems to greet you, her gaze warm. The straight lines of her dress and the detail on the fringe suggest a steady painter’s hand while the attention and care with the facial expression and eyes indicates an observant and careful creator. From the Skinner collection, this oil on canvas dates from about 1835 and is by Massachusettes artist Erastus Sailsbury Field.

What do you think of this piece?

Born in 1805 in Leverett, MA, Erastus Sailsbury Field spent much of his life in Massachusetts. The National Gallery of Art details that with an early interest in art, Field moved to New York in the 1820s to study with Samuel B.F. Morse. With a natural talent, Field spent much of his time painting portraits and landscapes, and was known for his quick and precise work.

The artist married and had one child, a daughter. Field integrated changing technology as he worked, utilizing evolving camera technology such as the daguerreotype to capture a sitter’s image. He would use this image as he finalized painting a portrait. Adoptive, resourceful, and industrious, Field created a small studio in Sunderland, MA.

By the time of his death in 1900, Field had produced over three hundred paintings. In addition to portraits and landscapes, Field’s work also includes many historical and biblical scenes. I was grateful to encounter this artist’s work while living in Massachusetts!

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