The Van Allen Homestead

Henry A. Ferguson (1845–1911)
Date: c. 1860–1870
Medium: Oil on canvas
Dimensions: 9 1/4 H x 14 1/4 W (image); 19 H x 23 5/8 W (frame)
Credit: Gift of Mrs. Anna Van Allen Jenison
Accession Number: 1920.9
Henry Ferguson’s painting is both a house portrait and a veneration of the old family homestead. By the 1860s and 1870s, American families tended to be less stationary than they had been in earlier generations. The old family homestead become a symbol of the past, a nostalgic reminder of what Americans were losing due to rising urbanization, industrial expansion, and westward migration. The Van Allen homestead painted by Ferguson most likely stood south of Albany in Bethlehem Township, where generations of Van Allens lived and farmed, but the exact homestead has not been identified.
Henry Ferguson was born and raised in Glens Falls, New York. He eventually joined his brother Hiram, in Albany, as a wood engraver, producing printing blocks for magazines, books, and newspapers. His aspirations to become a painter led Ferguson to leave family and home, and travel through Mexico, South America, Europe, and Africa in search of landscapes. In 1867, he began exhibiting at the National Academy of Design works derived from his travels abroad as well as more familiar landscapes from excursions through the Hudson Valley.