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Ivan Albright: The Farmer's Kitchen, 1934 | by americanartmuseum
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Ivan Albright: The Farmer's Kitchen, 1934

The Farmer's Kitchen, 1934

Ivan Albright, Born: North Harvey, Illinois 1897 Died: Woodstock, Vermont 1983

oil on canvas 36 x 30 1/8 in. (91.5 x 76.5 cm.)

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Transfer from the U.S. Department of Labor 1964.1.74


Ivan Albright’s obsessively detailed painting style put on canvas the crushing impact of drudgery and advancing age. The swollen, red-knuckled hands of this farmwife preparing to peel radishes, pushed forward until they are impossible to ignore, evoke an aching sympathy. The cast-iron stove has become a tool of torture this woman cannot avoid in her daily grind. Wrinkles multiply over her drooping flesh, speaking too eloquently of years full of ceaseless labor. The family cat offers this farm wife no companionship, but shrinks away from her. Outside in the fields must be a farmer husband equally worn by long labor. The burden of empathy for this hard life, made yet harder by the Depression, is almost unbearable.


Who is this poor farmwife, limp with weariness and lined with toil? One of Albright’s neighbors in Warrenville, Illinois, posed for the painting. But no individual can explain the emotional freight of Albright’s depiction. He aged and distorted every person he painted, young or old. Albright painted flesh that does not heal as living flesh does, but crumples and shows the scars of every event with equally cruel clarity.


Personal, educational and non-commercial use of digital images from the American Art Museum's collection is permitted, with attribution to the Smithsonian American Art Museum, for all images unless otherwise noted.

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Taken on September 30, 2008