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Boys in a Garden

Boys in a GardenUnknown artist,  About 1765   X1973.46.0

By the mid 1700s, Connecticut’s colonial elite sought to fill their households with British imports. Creative colonists capitalized on the demand by offering British-style goods, including paintings. Portraiture was the most popular type of painting in colonial America, though the work was often not enough to support an artist. Many artists traveled from town to town seeking clients or supplemented their portrait work with sign painting and other ornamental work.

Boys in a Garden displays colonial sensibilities of virtue and refinement. The two boys are shown in full length, both with freshly picked flowers in hand. Often mistaken for a girl, the seated boy wears a skirt, common for children under five or six years of age. The older boy wears clothes that are a miniature version of an adult man’s. This painting is on permanent exhibit in Making Connecticut.

The Connecticut Historical Society has the largest collection of 18th- and 19th-century Connecticut portraits, featuring works by Connecticut native John Trumbull, as well as Thomas Sully, Richard and William Jennys, and Erastus Salisbury Field. The painting collection also includes miniatures, landscapes, and town scenes.