Iris at Dawn (Iris)

Maria Oakey Dewing, American, 1845 - 1927

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1899

Oil on canvas

Overall: 25 3/16 × 31 5/16 in. (64 × 79.5 cm)

Frame: 38 × 44 in. (96.5 × 111.8 cm)

Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth: Purchased through the Miriam H. and S. Sidney Stoneman Acquisition Fund and the Mrs. Harvey P. Hood W'18 Fund

P.999.11

Geography

Place Made: United States, North America

Period

19th century

Object Name

Painting

Research Area

Painting

On view

Inscriptions

Signed and dated, lower left: Maria Oakey Dewing 1899 [date indistinct]; inscribed, on reverse [covered by lining fabric]: Iris at Dawn / painted by Maria Oakey Dewing 1899 / owned by Miss Bartol 17 Chestnut St / Boston / Mass; old inscription on brown paper affixed to new backing: Maria Oakey Dewing / Iris - Oil on canvas 156

Label

Maria Oakey Dewing painted Iris at Dawn in her luxuriant flower garden in Cornish, New Hampshire. There, she and her husband, the painter Thomas Wilmer Dewing, figured prominently in the artistic and social life of the Cornish art colony during the summers of 1885 to 1903. Maria Dewing’s most original creations were her outdoor still lifes, of which Iris at Dawn is one of a few surviving examples. This work is characteristic of these compositions in its lack of a horizon line and its close vantage point, which elicit in the viewer the sensation of being immersed in a densely planted flower bed. The shadowless dawn light further compresses the space. By portraying the iris in various stages of bloom and in its natural habitat— rather than in a tabletop arrangement—Dewing accentuates the plant’s vitality and distinctive growth habits. While remaining faithful to nature, Maria Dewing followed in the tradition of her former teacher John La Farge and imbued her floral compositions with a poetic, almost mysterious quality suggestive of larger themes such as the transience of life and the hope of renewal.

From the 2019 exhibition American Art, Colonial to Modern, curated by Barbara J. MacAdam, Jonathan L. Cohen Curator of American Art

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Both Maria Oakey Dewing’s painting and the Grueby Faience Company’s vase reflect a renewed reverence for nature in the face of rapid industrialization and urbanization at the turn of the 20th century. Iris at Dawn, which Dewing painted in her Cornish, New Hampshire, garden, reveals both her artistry and horticultural knowledge. In this immersive composition she rendered each blossom with exquisite detail, capturing the iris at various stages of growth and decay.

Typical of Grueby’s wares, this vase boasts a tactile matte glaze and earthy, plant-inspired decoration. The firm’s practice of hand-throwing rather than using molds to shape its vessels epitomized values associated with the Arts and Crafts movement. Women trained at Boston’s art schools typically applied Grueby’s floral designs.

What significance do flowers have in our present-day culture and in your own life?

From the 2022 exhibition This Land: American Engagement with the Natural World, curated by Jami C. Powell, Curator of Indigenous Art; Barbara J. MacAdam, former Jonathan L. Cohen Curator of American Art; Thomas H. Price, former Curatorial Assistant; Morgan E. Freeman, former DAMLI Native American Art Fellow; and Michael Hartman, Jonathan Little Cohen Associate Curator of American Art


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Painting irises in her Cornish, New Hampshire, garden, Maria Oakey Dewing evokes a feeling of immersion. The close vantage point and lack of horizon invite us to imagine sitting in her densely planted flowing bed. The full blooms suggest Dewing achieved the right balance of soil composition and water—not too little and not too much. Rather than picking the flowers and placing them in a vase full of water (where they will perish sooner than if left outside), Dewing paints nature’s beauty, a beauty she helped cultivate. Through this canvas, we can feel Dewing’s pride and delight in gardening.

From the 2023 exhibition Liquidity: Art, Commodities, and Water, curated by Michael Hartman, Jonathan Little Cohen Associate Curator of American Art

Course History

SART 31/SART 72, Painting II/III, Jennifer Caine, Winter 2020

ANTH 7.05, Animals and Humans, Laura Ogden, Winter 2022

GEOG 31.01, Postcolonial Geographies, Erin Collins, Winter 2022

ANTH 50.05, Environmental Archaeology, Madeleine McLeester, Winter 2022

ANTH 50.05, Environmental Archaeology, Madeleine McLeester, Winter 2022

ARTH 5.01, Introduction to Contemporary Art, Mary Coffey and Chad Elias, Winter 2022

ANTH 3.01, Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, Chelsey Kivland, Summer 2022

ANTH 3.01, Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, Chelsey Kivland, Summer 2022

SPAN 65.15, Wonderstruck: Archives and the Production of Knowledge in an Unequal World, Silvia Spitta and Barbara Goebel, Summer 2022

Studio Art 31.01/72.01, Painting II/III, Jen Caine, Winter 2023

First Year Student Enrichment Program - Cultures, Identities and Belongings, Francine A'Ness, Summer 2023

Anthropology 55.01, Anthropology of Global Health, Anne Sosin, Fall 2023

Anthropology 55.01, Anthropology of Global Health, Anne Sosin, Fall 2023

Art History 40.01, American Art and Identity, Mary Coffey, Fall 2023

Creative Writing 10.02, Writing and Reading Fiction, Katherine Crouch, Fall 2023

Geography 11.01, Qualitative Methods, Emma Colven, Fall 2023

Geography 2.01, Introduction to Human Geography, Coleen Fox, Fall 2023

Geography 31.01, Postcolonial Geographies, Erin Collins, Fall 2023

Exhibition History

American Art at Dartmouth: Highlights from the Hood Museum of Art, Israel Sack Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, June 9-December 9, 2007.

American Art, Colonial to Modern, Israel Sack Gallery and Rush Family Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, January 26, 2019-September 12, 2021.

An Exhibition of Paintings by Maria Oakey Dewing, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, March 2-23, 1907, no. 5.

Annual Exhibition, National Academy of Design, New York, New York, 1908, no. 113.

Copley Society, Boston, Massachusetts, 1902, no. 105.

Currier Museum of Art, Manchester, New Hampshire, March 17, 2016-June 30, 2018.

Israel Sack Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, March 2, 2009-present.

Israel Sack Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, September 15, 1999-February 8, 2006.

Israel Sack Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, September 15, 2006-May 8, 2007.

Liquidity: Art, Commodities, and Water, Israel Sack Gallery and the Rush Family Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, July 29, 2023-June 16, 2024.

Painting Summer in New England, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts, April 22-September 4, 2006.

The Artist's Garden: American Impressionism and the Garden Movement, 1887-1920, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, February 12-May 24, 2015; Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, Virginia, June 16-September 6, 2015; Reynolda House Museum of American Art, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, October 1, 2015-January 3, 2016.

The Garden, Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, New York, New York, Sept.1-Oct. 31, 1991.

This Land: American Engagement with the Natural World, Israel Sack Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth, Hanover, New Hampshire, January 5–July 22, 2022.

Publication History

Jennifer Martin, "Portraits of Flowers: The Out-of Door Still Life Paintings of Maria Oakey Dewing," American Art Review 4 (December 1977), 48-55, 114-118 (color illus. 53; listing with catalogue information, 118).

Susan A. Hobbs, "Maria Oakey Dewing's Flowers and Figures", The Magazine Antiques, New York, NY: Brant Publications, Inc., January 2004, pp. 152-159, color ill. p. 154.

Barbara J. MacAdam, Marks of Distinction, Two Hundred Years of American Drawings and Watercolors from the Hood Museum of Art, Manchester, Vermont: Hudson Hills Press, 2005, pp. 17-18, ill. pp. 18, fig. 12.

Trevor Fairbrother, Painting Summer in New England, New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press, 2006, ill. p. 56.

Barbara J. MacAdam, American Art at Dartmouth: Highlights from the Hood Muesum of Art, Hanover: Trustees of Dartmouth College, 2007, p. 66-67, no. 45.

Barbara J. MacAdam, Building on Dartmouth's Historic American Collections: Hood Museum of Art Acquisitions since 1985, The Magazine Antiques, November 2007, New York: Brant Publications, color ill. p. 147.

Anna O. Marley, The Artist's Garden: American Impressionism and the Garden Movement, Phliadelphia, Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014, 249 pp., ill. p. 148.

John R. Stomberg, The Hood Now: Art and Inquiry at Dartmouth, Hanover, New Hampshire: Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, 2019, p. 130, ill. plate no. 61.

Provenance

The artist; presumably given to Elizabeth Howard Bartol, friend and second cousin of the artist; collection of the artist in 1927 for a brief period following the death of Elizabeth Bartol; probably given to Elizabeth Bartol Dewing, the artist's daughter, following the artist's death Dec. 13, 1927; Mr. and Mrs. Nelson C. White, Waterford, Connecticut; given to their son, George C. White, Waterford, Connecticut, 1977-1979; in exchange for another work, returned by George C. White to his parents Mr. and Mrs. Nelson C. White, Waterford, Connecticut, 1979-1989; owned by Mrs. Nelson C. White, Waterford, Connecticut, 1989-1999, following Mr. Nelson C. White's death in 1989; sold to The Cooley Gallery, Old Lyme, Connecticut, 1999.

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