Elliott Daingerfield (American, 1859–1932),
The Watering Trough
, ca. 1890
oil on canvas, 24 ½ x 34 ½ in.; 62.23 x 87.63 cm
Gift of Mrs. C.N. Dietz, 1934.25
Daingerfield's family moved from Harpers Ferry, Virginia (now West Virginia), to Fayetteville, North Carolina, when he was two. As a young man he went to New york City where he worked for Walter Satterlee, a successful illustrator. He also studied at the Art Students League and exhibited at the National Academy of Design. in 1885 Daingerfield returned to North Carolina to recover from a severe attack of diptheria; thereafter, he lived both in New York and Blowing Rock, North Carolina, making a trip to Europe in the summer of 1897 and to the Grand Canyon in 1911. He was elected an associate of the National Academy in 1902, and the same year received an important commission for the murals in the Lady Chapel of the Church of Saint Mary the Virgin in New York City.
Like the Tonalists, Daingerfield imbued his paintings with rich atmospheric effects that convey climatic variations and the transitory properties of light. At the same time, his works are mostly figurative and often visionary in intent. This painting shows both stylistic tendencies: the subject of peasants laboring in a rural landscape is clearly indebted to Jean-François Millet and the French Barbizon tradition; at the same time, the murky darkness and psychological isolation of the individuals gives the painting a dreamlike quality. This latter feature is evidence of Daingerfield’s exposure to the late-nineteenth-century Symbolists, who sought to transform recorded fact into “symbols” of inner experience. Through Tonalism and Symbolism, Daingerfield reacted against the materialism and derterminism of the Gilded Age, which he considered to be devoid of soul and imagination.