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THE MILL CHILDREN
AUGUST 2011


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Cotton And Smoke

Cotton And Smoke
© Dawn Nelson. All Rights Reserved.
2011, Oil on Backed Loose Canvas, 115” x 52”
$6,000. Unframed.

The children depicted in this painting come straight from a section of my personal favorite of the Lewis Hine photographs from The Eclipse Mill, North Adams, MA. Albert Duquette, the little, macho, pipe smoking guy won me over, flanked by a posse of his buddies, all of them looking very cool. As a middle school teacher, I am left with a vague sense that I have taught these kids. I named this painting Cotton and Smoke, noticing that there is more than one white fluffy substance they are breathing in that is not especially good for them!






CHILD MILL WORKERS

CHILD MILL WORKERS
Eclipse Mill, August 1911
By Lewis Hine

Joseph Crepeau (short boy in the middle in the front)
Albert Duquette (barefoot boy at far right)

Joseph’s Story –

“When Joseph met up with Lewis Hine while standing on what used to be the trolley tracks on Union Street, he was probably thinking about going home to his house across the river on Front Street (not Fruit Street, as Hine stated). I found him in eight of the nine Hine photos taken at the Eclipse.”

“ … Thus began a long search for descendants, and ultimately one of the great wild goose chases of my Lewis Hine Project.” –Joe Manning, Lewis Hine Project

Click here for Joseph's full story by Joe Manning...






CHILD MILL WORKERS

CHILD MILL WORKERS
Eclipse Mill, August 1911
By Lewis Hine

Richard Fitzgerald (center front)

Joseph Crepeau (next to Richard, smiling with his hand around Richard's arm)

Richard’s Story

“When I look at the boys in Lewis Hine’s nine photographs in North Adams, I think about the fact that in six years, their country will enter WWI, and many of them will no longer be working at the mill. Instead, they will be heading out of the city on troop trains, leaving their lively and mostly French-Canadian neighborhood along the Hoosic River. Some may never return. Those who do will face the Great Depression in another 10 years, when most will struggle to support a wife and young children, the youngest (boys) of which will reach draft age about the time the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor.”

“Hine shows us 14-year-old Richard Fitzgerald in several pictures, each time for one moment in his life, that’s all. Other than the date and the place he was photographed, we know virtually nothing about him. We don’t know what he is thinking and what his life has been like up to that time. Richard doesn’t know what he is destined to face in adulthood, though he may have already made some assumptions about that.” –Joe Manning, Lewis Hine Project

Click here for Richard's full story by Joe Manning...






SEATED MILL GIRL

SEATED MILL GIRL
© William Oberst. All Rights Reserved.
2011, Gouache, 22” x 17”
$800. Framed.

This is a study made in preparation for the oil painting, Sunday’s Rest.






YOUNG MILL SPIRIT

YOUNG MILL SPIRIT
© Dawn Nelson. All Rights Reserved.
2010, Oil on Backed Loose Canvas. 70” x 52”
$3,500. Unframed.

I think that the spirit of this boy is embedded into the walls of the Eclipse Mill and that, in some way; he is still with us today. His image appears in several of the 1911 Lewis Hine photos. Hines identifies him as Richard Fitzgerald. Through the efforts of Joe Manning we know that Richard was 14 yrs. old when Lewis Hine took his photographs at the mill, and that by this time he had already lost his paternal grandfather, his 17 yr. old brother (in a job related accident), his uncle (by suicide), and his mother, (who had died two years earlier in 1909). Within the following 8 years, he would also lose his sister (leaving a husband and 2 small children), his paternal grandmother, and his father. He moved to Boston and was living with his brother Joe according to the 1930 census. Richard died at 69 on March 8, 1967 in Brighton, MA, according to his obituary. No survivors were listed. Beyond this, we know very little about him or what he was like as an adult.






GRUNDGY VIBRATING CATHEDRAL

GRUNDGY VIBRATING CATHEDRAL
© Dawn Nelson. All Rights Reserved.
2011, Oil on Backed Loose Canvas, 83” x 95”
$6,000. Unframed.

This painting takes one of Lewis Hine's still photographs of an interior of a mill and propels it into action. I found the huge open space, accentuated by one point perspective, and flanked by pillars and arched windows, to be architecturally reminiscent of a cathedral. While the mill is a kind of grand testament to the Industrial Revolution, like a religious cathedral, it is also a centerpiece of its community. What Hine’s photo did not show was the incredible racket of all those looms, the actual physical vibration of the building from all that movement, and the general grunge and grime of the environment. I tried to bring that to life in this painting.






STANDING MILL BOY

STANDING MILL BOY
© William Oberst. All Rights Reserved.
2011, Gouache, 20” x 17”
$450. Framed.

Here is a companion piece to Standing Mill Girl. North Adams children posed for both paintings.






Limited Edition Digital Archival Print of MILL GIRL Painting

Limited Edition Digital Archival Print of MILL GIRL Painting
© William Oberst. All Rights Reserved.
2011, Heavy Weight Museum Paper, 24” x 30”
$900. Unframed. $1,100, Framed. 1/10




STANDING MILL GIRL

STANDING MILL GIRL
© William Oberst. All Rights Reserved.
2011, Gouache, 20” x 17”
$500. Framed.

This is the original artwork for the blue-clad girl in The Mill Children poster.






ALL HEART

ALL HEART
© Dawn Nelson. All Rights Reserved.
2011, Oil on Backed Loose Canvas, 70” x 52”
$4,000. Unframed.

In this painting, I am thinking about the evening hours when the mill has shut down for the night. I am considering the aftermath of the day. The cotton is all stirred up and still floating and flying around. The mill windows have become lungs in my mind, breathing in the cotton particles. I had started the painting with a fire bucket hanging on the wall. Fire buckets with water in them hung on the brick sections between the windows as an assurance that safety was being attended to. This illusion of safety was, of course, absurd because a few little buckets of water would do little good against a fire in a building chocked full of flammable cotton. But then as I was painting, something else happened; the fire bucket began morphing into a heart. I went along with it, realizing as the painting was developing that it was not just the lungs of these children that were being affected, but their whole cardio-vascular system. Then, following the painting one step further, it occurred to me that regardless of what damage was being done to these young workers physically, they really did seem to me to still be All Heart. For me, my paintings often tell me more than I know before I do them. That certainly happened to me here.






THE MILL CHILDREN EXHIBITION PRINT

THE MILL CHILDREN EXHIBITION PRINT
© BRILL GALLERY PRODUCTIONS. All Rights Reserved
2011, Limited Edition Digital Archival Print on Heavy Weight Museum Paper, 30” x 24”
$400. Unframed. $600, Framed. 7/200.

This image used as ‘the face’ of the exhibition is a permutation of the work of each featured artist: Dawn Nelson, William Oberst, and Lewis Hine.






THE OVERSEER

THE OVERSEER
© Dawn Nelson. All Rights Reserved.
2010, Oil on Backed Loose Canvas, 70” x 52"
$3,000. Unframed.

The overseers came through the rooms of the mill about every half hour or so to make sure things were running smoothly. They were really the only adult supervision the mill children had. As a teacher, I can imagine that the dozens of children working in the mill kept a sharp eye out for when he was coming and quickly assumed perfect behavior, but that at other times a great deal of fun was sprinkled in, especially when time in between tasks permitted it!






MILL GIRL

MILL GIRL
© William Oberst. All Rights Reserved.
2011, Oil on Linen, 40” x 50”
$16,000. Unframed.

Children didn't belong in the adult, male-dominated mills. I also found the machinery unsettling. The weaving machine in this painting is nearly identical to those at the Lowell National Historical Park. Like a malevolent beast, it threatens to consume the picture. Yet the girl is a worker who knows no other life. Would she appreciate my concerns?






SUNDAY’S REST

SUNDAY’S REST
© William Oberst. All Rights Reserved.
2011, Oil on Linen, 46” x 28”
$14,000. Unframed.

My model was a North Adams girl, the same child who posed for Mill Girl. I put her in a boarding house that was adapted from an exhibit at the Lowell National Historical Park. She is dressed in her Sunday clothes. In her eyes I see a nuanced world that, like ours, was neither black nor white, good nor bad.






SEATED MILL BOY

SEATED MILL BOY
© William Oberst. All Rights Reserved.
2011, Gouache, 20” x 18”
$450. Framed.

In my imagination, the mill children revealed more of themselves in unguarded moments, when they were not working.






CHILD MILL WORKERS

CHILD MILL WORKERS
Eclipse Mill, August 1911
By Lewis Hine

The three middle boys:
Josephat Adams (left)
Joseph Crepeau (middle)
Richard Fitzgerald (right)

Josephat’s Story –

“ Josephat (Joe) Adams lived his whole life at 105-107 Front St., and almost lost his house in one of those floods. He was born in Quebec on May 25, 1901. He was only 10 years old when he was photographed, though he looked several years older. He was the youngest of nine children of Napoleon and Eugenie (Brosseau) Adams. When Joe was a baby, he and his family came to the US, and settled on Front Street. They rented the house from Arnold Print Works. In 1911, the house was purchased by the Hoosac Cotton Mill, which owned it until 1934, when Joe Adams and his wife bought it.” –Joe Manning, Lewis Hine Project

Click here for Josephat's full story by Joe Manning...






CHILD MILL WORKERS

CHILD MILL WORKERS
Eclipse Mill, August 1911
By Lewis Hine

Richard Fitzgerald (second boy from left)
Arthur Chalifoux (fourth boy from left)
Joseph Crepeau (fifth boy from left)
Albert Duquette (barefoot boy with pipe)

Arthur’s Story -

“ Arthur had turned 14 about a week before Hine photographed him, making him a legal employee for the first time, according to Massachusetts child labor laws. It is likely that he started working in the mill several years before, since his grandson recalls him stating many times that he had to quit school at a very young age in order to work full time.”

“…“He used to say: ‘You people have it easy today. You don’t know what I went through as a little boy. You don’t know how lucky you are. You’ve got everything; it’s all handed to you. I didn’t have that.’…” –Joe Manning, Lewis Hine Project and David Cronkright, one of Arthur’s grandsons

Click here for Arthur's full story by Joe Manning...

Albert’s Story –

“The increasing availability of digitized historic photographs on the Internet has created a new life for this Lewis Hine picture of Albert Duquette and his friends. For obvious reasons, the diminutive boy with the pipe is often referred to as Popeye, despite the fact that the boy’s pose predated the famous comic strip character by 18 years.”

“ Less than a decade after Albert was photographed at the age of 15, he was a professional boxer, known as Young Eddie Leonard. In 1935, he died suddenly of an apparent heart attack, leaving a wife, but no children. Despite my best efforts, I was unable to find anyone who remembers Albert, or knows anything about him.” –Joe Manning, Lewis Hine Project

Click here for Albert's full story by Joe Manning...






MORNING WAFTING IN

MORNING WAFTING IN
© Dawn Nelson. All Rights Reserved.
2011, Oil on Backed Loose Canvas, 70” x 52”
$3,500. Unframed.

The caps of two young boys pass by the window heading in to work against the backdrop of a gloriously beautiful morning in the Berkshires. Across the road you can see the signature saw-tooth roof of the other side of the Eclipse Mill, which is just across the road. The day is about to start.






MILL GIRL BY STOOP STUDY

MILL GIRL BY STOOP STUDY
© William Oberst. All Rights Reserved.
2010, Gouache, 16” x 18”
$600. Framed.

A preparatory study for an oil painting that is not yet created.






MILL GIRL STUDY

MILL GIRL STUDY
© William Oberst. All Rights Reserved.
2010, Gouache, 16” x 18”
$600. Framed.

Created prior to the oil painting Mill Girl, this study, like the others, enabled me to determine how well the composition held together as art.






ELIZABETH STUDY

ELIZABETH STUDY
© William Oberst. All Rights Reserved.
2010, Gouache, 16” x 18”
$600. Framed.

Unlike the other studies, this was painted on dark-blue paper, in order to test how that color might appear as an under layer in the larger oil painting I was contemplating.






SATURDAY EVENING FIDDLING

SATURDAY EVENING FIDDLING
© Dawn Nelson. All Rights Reserved.
2011, Oil on Backed Loose Canvas, 70” x 52”
$3,500. Unframed.

Many or most of the workers at the Eclipse Mill at this time were French Canadian. Fiddling was common in French Canadian families here, and Saturday evenings were spent at several local parish halls, where dances to the sound of traditional French Canadian fiddle music were a standard of Saturday night entertainment. This painting is about the sounds of the fiddles, and the pounding of dancing feet, and the light of the festivities pouring out into the evening air.






ELIZABETH

ELIZABETH
© William Oberst. All Rights Reserved.
2011, Oil on Linen, 40” x 50”
$10,000. Unframed.

A mill child appears near the end of her life. In contrast to the open stare of the girl in Sunday’s Rest, hers holds the experiences of a life lived. She retired from mill work decades earlier, and the building behind her—based on the Beaver Mill in North Adams—is now a shuttered relic. Her spirit has outlasted the mill.






MILL MUSIC

MILL MUSIC
© Dawn Nelson. All Rights Reserved.
2011, Oil on Backed Loose Canvas, 70” x 52”
$3,500. Unframed.

This painting is really about the sounds and sight of the looms from the perspective of the children running them. Beneath these top layers of paint a few glimpses can be seen of bits and pieces of lower painted layers of small hands and feet. Part of why children were so desirable as workers was that their small hands (and feet) could move and work more nimbly between the small spaces on the looms. They were very effective workers in this way, but it was also very dangerous to have these hands and often bare feet moving among this wall of speeding spools and shuttles. From the mill children’s perspective, all they saw was a wall of looms, usually taller than they were, loaded with spinning spools of cotton, vibrating because of the noise and racket of hundreds of these now historic machines working away madly and all at the same time.