The Old Stagecoach
The Old Stagecoach, 1871
Oil on canvas
36 1/4 × 60 1/8 in. (92.08 × 152.72 cm)
Layton Art Collection, Gift of Frederick Layton L1888.22
Photo credit John R. Glembin
The early 1870s marked the height of Eastman Johnson’s career. His sentimental genre scenes of rustic youth and rural life were extremely popular in the wake of the Civil War, evoking a nostalgia for simpler times. Images of innocent and carefree children offered promise for a new beginning to a generation troubled by industrialization and decaying urban conditions. The traditional New England character of Nantucket attracted Johnson to spend his summers there. This energetic and convincingly spontaneous scene of children playing on the wreck of a stagecoach was actually staged in Nantucket on a platform, which the artist altered in the studio to conform to an abandoned coach he had drawn in the Catskills. Despite its contrived origins, the painting is a joyful celebration of the hope of a nation as embodied in the laughter of its youth.
This information is subject to change as the result of ongoing research.