Saturday, February 25, 2012

Fairbanks House - then and now

I surf the internet for images of paintings.  I suppose we all do, or most of us.  I look at artists, past and present, study their work, zoom in and out, isolate passages, ponder, wonder, revel.  I  begin most of my painting classes with a few minutes review of images that support the lesson, sometimes showing several side by side for comparison.  My students take notes of artists' names and titles and I encourage them to compile their own collection of images for study.  

Recently, while surfing through some painting images, this one caught my eye, not because of its wonderful light and design, brushwork, values, color harmony, but because the silhouette of the house resonated with a deep memory.  That roof line struck a chord.  

I thought I recognized the Fairbanks House in Dedham, MA.  I grew up near Dedham, and have driven past what is thought to be the oldest standing timber frame house in North America countless times, because it was the back road home from college, or the route to the dentist's, or the best way to avoid traffic on the perpetually congested Route 1.  As soon as my brain formulated the name "Fairbanks", I saw the title of Childe Hassam's wonderful painting, "The Old Fairbanks House".  The connection across centuries was thrilling, similar to looking at Edward Hopper's paintings of Monhegan Island and recognizing individual rocks from my own visits these past eight summers.

Hassam completed "The Old Fairbanks House" in 1884 when the house was already close to a quarter millenium old.  That is truly ancient history for New England.  I visited the Fairbanks House once, as a child.  I can't recall much of the inside, but its profile is etched in my brain.  I will visit again this spring, and will try to see as Childe Hassam might have seen.  I included an image of the house today.  You can learn more at 


  1. Wonderful post, I grew up in Hyde Park and also drove by the Fairbanks House as you did, (back way to Lechmere's)! Anyway, you took me back and I love your writing!

    1. Thanks, Kris. Yes, it was on the way to Lechmere's! And thanks, for liking my writing.. glad some of what I'm thinking is transferring to the keyboard.

  2. Thanks for your lovely comment, Jody. I enjoyed reading this post wondering at how many kindred spirits are scattered all over the world! I am in the Old England now but originally from Moscow ( in Russia - in case there is another in the States somewhere))) My roots are very important, past experiences are impregnatinng the present, the older I get more apparent it becomes.

  3. wonderful musings on this painting, Jody.... what an inspiring teacher you are... xoxo

  4. Thank you. I love when those connections occur between past and present.