A scene from a period of changing prosperity for rural America, Xanthus Smith has assembled a winning composition within this large canvas capturing a moment along a eastern riverbank. The depth and changing hues of the foliage suggest it is late summer, and the elevated mill and house along the bank are reminiscent of structures through Delaware, Maryland and Virginia. Smith himself was native to Pennsylvania, and the rising mountain elevations could easily be in his home state, with 116 mills listed in the register of historic buildings of the "Virtue, Liberty and Independence" state.
The serenity of the scene is pleasing and tranquil, except perhaps for the effort to comfort the horses for the short pole-ferry ride across the calm river. Two women in fine dress are seated, while the men make ready, and a family outside the mill waits their visitors. Another ferryman sits at leisure on the close bank, near the remnant of a derelict hull's timbers.
Interesting textures appear throughout this work by Smith, especially looking at the twisting tree trunk and the aged construction of the multi-storied mill structures. The overall panorama is a perfect view of the wide expanse of the seasonal nature of the location. The clear, bright light allows for the reflective river surface to shine. With much of the American population gathering in her larger cities, places such as this would soon be served by road, bridges and trains. The swimming waterfowl ducks don't seem to mind it as it once was.
Inscribed Verso: “The Ferry at The Old Mill, 1896. Painted by Xanthus Smith.”
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