Checkers Up At The Farm
Checkers Up At The Farm
Overall: 20 x 17 1/4 x 11 1/4 in. ( 50.8 x 43.8 x 28.6 cm )
Gift of Mr. Samuel V. Hoffman
signed: front of base: "JOHN ROGERS/NEW YORK"inscribed: front of base: "CHECKERS/UP AT THE FARM"inscribed: proper left rear of base: "PATENTED/DECEMBER 28 1875"
Board games are a recurring theme in Rogers' work, particularly the game of checkers. In 1855 he modeled a small clay group after the painting The Card Players by the English genre painter Sir David Wilkie. He reprised the theme a few years later, in 1859-60. He returned to the subject once again in 1875, and instead of creating a simple variation on a well-known English theme, he developed a much more sophisticated composition that addresses uniquely American class issues and demonstrates how much he had matured as an artist, both technically and intellectually, in the intervening years. Rogers' 1859-60 Checker Players (1949.276, 1936.717) offers a simple vignette of two rural men, one old and one young, with the younger crowing over his anticipated victory. In this later version, the opponents are pointedly differentiated by class. Rogers' sales catalogue described the two men as "a gentleman who has gone up to the farm with his wife and baby" and "the farmer, who has forced his opponent's pieces into positions where they cannot be moved without being taken." The older player is a well-to-do city dweller, as can be seen by his suit, spats, and fashionable muttonchops. He stoops over the game board and holds a fan at his side, a feminine accessory that slightly compromises his masculinity. The young farmer across from him sits bolt upright, full of energy. He is clean-shaven and simply dressed in shirtsleeves and sturdy boots. He points out his winning position to the gentleman with a hearty laugh. Checkers Up at the Farm struck a chord with Americans; it was Rogers' most popular group next to Coming to the Parson, selling about five thousand plasters. Rogers included it in his contribution to the 1876 Centennial Exhibition; ever the canny marketer, he was no doubt aware that a subject embracing rural America would prove highly popular with the many millions who descended on Philadelphia's Fairmount Park from all parts of the country. Written responses to the group reflect its appeal to the general public. Critics relished telling the tale of the simple farmer besting the sophisticated urbanite with native unspoiled intelligence, describing the men's garb and behavior in detail. During this period class differences grew ever more marked, and populations were increasingly concentrated in cities. In addition, concerns were building about the effects of cloistered, sedentary, office life on the modern man's masculinity. Rogers' vignette offered an affirmation of native Yankee intelligence and the virtues of country life in the person of the clever, virile farmer. Rogers' new 1875 composition is considerably more complex than the one he presented fifteen years bef