May 13, 2014–January 8, 2017

Sample Box and Ten Panels

Moses Eaton Jr. (1796-1886) Ingenuity

Dublin, New Hampshire

c. 1820–1830

Paint on pine, with brass handle

Box: 8 3/4 x 15 1/16 x 2 5/8"

Panels: 14 x 6 7/8 x 1/8" each

Collection American Folk Art Museum, New York

Anonymous gift and gift of the Richard Coyle Lilly Foundation, 1980.28.1a–k

Photo by Terry McGinnis

Sample Box and Ten Panels

Nineteenth-century decorative painters learned their skills in a variety of ways, from serving apprenticeships to reading instruction manuals. In 1812 Hezekiah Reynolds printed a pamphlet of paint recipes and techniques intended “for the use of those who have not been regularly instructed in the Art of Painting.” In 1827 English author Nathaniel Whittock directed his book to “the house painter who intends becoming an imitator of fancy woods.”

This sample box was discovered in the New Hampshire home of the decorative painter Moses Eaton. It includes ten narrow panels with exuberantly painted patterns produced in a variety of techniques such as vinegar painting, shelling, seaweed painting, stamping, and mottling. One panel is painted a solid yellow ocher. This would provide the base for vigorous patterning overlaid with a darker glaze or paint and manipulated using putty, leather, sponges, feathers, or the artist’s own fingers to work the paint and create some of the textures displayed on these panels. Once the entire surface was dry, it received coats of varnish that protected the surface and added depth and luster.

Stacy C. Hollander, “Sample Box and Ten Panels,” exhibition label for Self-Taught Genius: Treasures from the American Folk Art Museum. Stacy C. Hollander and Valérie Rousseau, curators. New York: American Folk Art Museum, 2014.