The Village Blacksmith

Frances Flora Bond Palmer American, born England
Lithographed and published by Currier & Ives American
Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow American

Not on view

This lithograph was inspired by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's popular poem, "The Village Blacksmith" (1840). In the two stanzas imprinted beneath the image, the poet describes the brawny smithy and children's fascination with how he uses fire and hammering force to shape metal. The artist transformed Longfellow's words into an engaging glimpse of village life. To the right of large tree, seven children gather to watch a blacksmith working at a fiery forge inside his shop, while another bearded, muscular man hammers at an anvil outside. At left, a dirt road, filled with children walking home from school, leads across a bridge towards a church and other village buildings. A horse-drawn carriage approaches ithe bridge from the village.

Nathaniel Currier, who established a successful New York-based lithography firm in 1835, produced thousands of hand-colored prints in various sizes that together create a vivid panorama of mid-to-late nineteenth century American life. Expansion led, in 1857, to a partnership with James Merritt Ives (1824–1895), the brother-in-law of Nathaniel's brother Charles. People eagerly acquired Currier & Ives lithographs, such as those featuring spectacular American landscapes, or rural and city views, hunting and fishing scenes, domestic life and numerous other subjects, as an inexpensive way to decorate their homes or business establishments.

Although it was unusual for a woman to achieve prominence in a printing business, Frances Flora ("Fanny") Palmer fulfilled an important role for the Currier and Ives firm. When she moved to New York from England in 1844, she was already an accomplished artist and printmaker. Initially, Fanny and her husband Seymour operated a small print-shop in lower Manhattan, similar to one they had run in Leicester (United Kingdom). In 1849, the couple moved to Brooklyn after the business closed. Nathaniel Currier began to buy print designs from Palmer around this time; after 1857, she became a staff artist for Currier & Ives, eventually producing more than 200 prints. Today, Palmer is regarded as a leading woman lithographer of the period.

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