Friday, May 3, 2013

Granville, Ohio, in the 1830s - Two Views or Two Copies of the Same View?

[Granville Female College]
[Granville Female College]. A drawing (1830s?). Used courtesy of Garth's Auctions.

When I first saw the thumbnail for this drawing in the current catalogue at Garth's Auctions, I knew the composition was familiar - namely, it was a subject illustrated in a lithograph by one M. French, made between 1835 and 1839, in the collections of the American Antiquarian Society. The date for the drawing was listed as "mid 19th century" - I hoped that the lithograph might provide some context - most likely the size of the trees - that would give a more specific date.

On further examination, I've come to see that they're a lot closer in composition - and likely date - than I had initially guessed.

Female academy, Granville Ohio
Female academy, Granville Ohio. A lithograph (between 1835 and 1839) from a drawing by M. French. Printed by Bufford's Lith. Used courtesy of the American Antiquarian Society.

There are quite a few elements shared by both images. A woman in a white dress stands in the front door of the Academy, with two women in dark dresses immediately to the right. The chimney of the house to the left ends up centered in a second floor window in both cases - even though they have rather different perspectives. The trees both show approximately the same amount of growth. Many (though not all) of the same windows are open on the front of the structure. There's even a similarity in the toning of the sky.

The drawing features central chimneys, while the print has more of them, smaller in size. In the drawing, the gable has a single window, while in the print, there are two smaller ones. In the print, the house is closer to the street, while in the drawing, it appears to have been moved back. In the drawing, which has a more crude sense of perspective, we can see more detail in the house to the right. The print has a different fence from the drawing.

It seems likely that these two images share some sort of common source - but what that source is, I do not know.

They have enough in common that one might start to consider if the drawing was a copy after the print - but the lack of the same skill in perspective tends to refute this.

My guess - and it is a guess - is that these were the product of two students, working under the same teacher at Granville Female Academy at the same time. On a given day, they went out and made sketches together. They included some suggestions about perspective - and some idealized items (the people walking on the street) as suggested, perhaps by the teacher. It might be worth the time to see if an "M. French" was, indeed, a student there at that time.

This pair appears to provide a look at how two artists, one more skilled than the other, approached the same subject at the same time.


  1. Fascinating. Your research and comments give me a lot tothink about. JEnny

  2. An impressive analysis. These two images, so similar yet with significant differences, also open up the question of how trustworthy these types of documents are in faithfully recording the appearance of a building.

    In a restoration this could be crucial; let's say, for example, the one-window gable was correct. If only the other picture survived, they might destroy the original feature and "restore" the imaginary two-window version.

    1. Indeed! This is why I'm so interested in gathering as large a body of visual material relating to Ohio as I can - so that the images may be compared with each other and with evidence in other media.

  3. Christopher,
    I'm wondering the source of the lithograph being dated 1835-9?
    when I read the Wiki referenced chapter on the Baptist then Episcopal then Baptist again Young Ladies' Institute, which (if I understood correctly) later became the Granville Female College, it mentions the building acquiring a 4th floor in 1861. did you happen to look at that book?

    I can't see the lithograph well but I would guess the drawing was done by a young person- particularly because the doorway figure is done so crudely.

    does Ohio's State Historic Preservation office have a photo database of demolished historic properties? have you contacted the Ohio Historical Society to see if they have other published/print images of the College?

    I have just discovered your blog tonight while researching this drawing at Garth's. Delighted we share an interest! I am in the Boston MA area and collect American 18th c. and 19th c. paintings and drawings of townscapes and some buildings (real places, not imaginary castles etc.)

    p.s. re Parnassus' comment re: restoration,it's true that early building images can reveal the architectural history of a building, but remember that carpenters/ restoration professionals can also read that history in structural elements - both in plain sight and also hidden in walls, attics, cellars...Placement of former windows, doors, staircases are some of the most obvious examples.

    1. Mindy - I didn't look at that book. I'm pretty sure that the date given in the catalog record from the American Antiquarian Society was based on the dates that the printer in question was active - but I'll check.

      The image from Howe's "Historical Collections of Ohio" wasn't included in the auction listing at the time I wrote the article. Looking at the original image, from the 1847/48 edition of Howe, it appears to be one of the many images that he copied after another source - the style appears inconsistent with his work. That's only to say that I'm not entirely confident in it as an indicator of the late 1840s as a date.

  4. p.s. did you see the print images on the Garth's Lot page that showed another image of the 2 college buildings? My google looking at the wiki-referred book - did not reveal this page; I don't know what book it comes from. But the house to the left of the 4 story main building is different from the one in the Garth's Lot. It has a hip roof, for one. Have no idea if that image is accurate but one would think it likely if it were in
    ^ Bushnell, Henry (1889). The History of Granville, Licking County, Ohio. Press of Hann & Adair,. p. 247

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  5. Another idea - it was very common for self taught artists (or those who trying to be artistic) to copy known works. Go through most any thrift store or antique mall and you will very likely see art made with the best of intentions - some are very good copies of known works, and others not so good. At a time when people had no evening entertainments that we enjoy, and books were rare (and reading thought to be selfish and lazy by those who couldn't read and didn't want others around them reading as well), this types of homemade art flourished and were based on what people either had on the wall or had seen on a wall.

    My guess is that the top picture is based on the lower picture and done by someone who's talent had yet to fully blossom.

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