Photo © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Gallery Text

An accomplished genre painter, Henry traveled across the American South in the 1880s in search of new subjects for his work. He was especially drawn to scenes involving black men, women, and children. His visit came at a moment of intense racial conflict. White legislators were passing the Jim Crow laws that gave rise to segregation, while hundreds of black people were murdered each year in a growing epidemic of lynchings.

Henry, who specialized in sentimental depictions of rural life, gives little hint of these realities. This painting of a black boy alongside the carriage of a white woman presents several mysteries. What is the relationship between these two figures? What does the letter in the boy’s hand contain, and who is its recipient? And who are the two onlookers on the far side of the fence?

Identification and Creation
Object Number
2003.279
People
Edward Lamson Henry, American (Charleston, SC 1841 - 1919 Ellenville, NY)
Title
The Message
Classification
Paintings
Work Type
painting
Date
1893
Places
Creation Place: North America, United States
Culture
American
Persistent Link
https://hvrd.art/o/50581
Location
Level 2, Room 2100, European and American Art, 17th–19th century, Centuries of Tradition, Changing Times: Art for an Uncertain Age
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Physical Descriptions
Medium
Oil on board
Technique
3.5 x 4.5 Polaroid print
Dimensions
23.5 x 30.5 cm (9 1/4 x 12 in.)
Inscriptions and Marks
  • Signed: l.r. E. L. Henry 93
Provenance
Gift of the artist to Beers Brothers, framers; gift of one of the brothers to his daughter; her gift to William Beers Crowell, her son; his gift to Gilbert Gabriel; his sale to Mrs. Norman B. Woolworth, New York; private collection; Alexander Gallery, New York; their sale to Theodore E. Stebbins Jr., 1999; his gift to Fogg Art Museum, 2003.
Acquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Fogg Museum, Gift of Theodore E. Stebbins Jr.
Accession Year
2003
Object Number
2003.279
Division
European and American Art
Contact
am_europeanamerican@harvard.edu
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Publication History

Elizabeth McCausland, "The Life and Work of Edward Henry Lamson N.A., 1841-1919", New York State Museum Bulletin, University of the State of New York (Albany, NY, September 1945), no. 339, No. A-258, p. 292

Coe Kerr Gallery, Inc., The American Painting Collection of Mrs. Norman B. Woolworth, exh. cat. (New York, 1970), p. 31, no. 46

Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr., Virginia Anderson, and Kimberly Orcutt, ed., American Paintings at Harvard, Volume Two, Paintings, Drawings, Pastels and Stained Glass by Artists Born 1826-1856, Harvard Art Museums and Yale University Press (U.S.) (Cambridge, MA and New Haven, CT, 2008), p. 140, cat. 104, ill.

Theodore E. Stebbins, Jr. and Melissa Renn, American Paintings at Harvard, Volume One: Paintings, Watercolors, and Pastels by Artists Born before 1826, Yale University Press (U.S.) and Harvard Art Museums (Cambridge and New Haven, 2014), p. 35

Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Ivan Gaskell, Sara Schechner, and Sarah Anne Carter, Tangible Things: Making History through Objects, Oxford University Press (NY) (New York, 2015), pp. 172-173, 177 repr. p. 173 as fig. 137

Exhibition History

Harvard Collects American Art, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 08/09/2003 - 02/22/2004

Tangible Things, The Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments, Cambridge, 01/24/2011 - 05/29/2011

32Q: 2100 19th Century, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 11/16/2014 - 03/20/2023

Subjects and Contexts

Google Art Project

Collection Highlights

This record has been reviewed by the curatorial staff but may be incomplete. Our records are frequently revised and enhanced. For more information please contact the Division of European and American Art at am_europeanamerican@harvard.edu