In The Tennessee Mountains
George W. Chambers (b. 1857)
In the Tennessee Mountains
The painting depicts a late summer scene in which an elderly woman standing in a garden leans on a hoe. In the garden are fall crops--primarily cabbages and greens--and a shock of corn stalk which is visible at the edge of the garden where flowers bloom. There are two cabins in the background, one of which appears to be in deteriorating condition.
George W. Chambers (b. 1857) taught in Nashville at the Watkins Institute beginning in 1885 and at the Nashville School of Art in the 1890s. A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Chambers had studied under Carl Gutherz (1844-1907) at the St. Louis School of Fine Arts and under Jean Leon Gerome in Paris in 1880. He may have known Gilbert Gaul (1855-1917) who was living in Van Buren County in the 1880s on an inherited farm with outbuildings of a similar design to those in this painting. This large (47" x 63") painting was exhibited at the Art Institute of Chicago's Second Annual Exhibition of Paintings in 1889, where it was awarded second prize, and at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in 1891. Later in his career, Chambers focused on decorative arts and stained glass. Art historian Marilyn Masler notes the strong similarity of the weary yet resigned figure of "In the Tennessee Mountains" with the genre scenes of French peasants, so popular in late 19th century Paris. The scene depicts an older woman paused in the process of work in a vegetable garden. Cabbages were an important crop for 19th century farmers and were a particular staple of Americans of German descent, who used the vegetable in cooking and pickling. Flowers around the perimeter of the garden were planted to attract useful bees. In the background a pumpkin is visible, set against the fence to support its massive vines. The time of year is probably mid to late fall based on the size of the pumpkin.
Tennessee State Museum
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