[From the catalogue-in-progress for “Landscapes & Livestock”, a loan exhibition for Agincourt Homecoming in the Fall of 2015]
SMITH, Ira J. [early 20th century]
oil on board / 7 inches x 10 inches
Pennsylvania is disproportionately represented in the Community Collection, especially by artists who had attended the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art or come under its influence. Ira Smith’s depiction of “The Schuylkill” falls within the movement called American Impressionism, which probably places this small undated work in the early years of the 20th century.
The painting shows a factory and other riverside establishments along the banks of the Schuylkill near the western edge of Philadelphia. Unlike the Delaware on Philly’s eastern side, which accommodates ocean-going ships, the secondary Schuylkill reached inland as a transportation artery for barges hauling coal and other commercial transport to and from Philadelphia’s hinterlands. The work was part of the modest collection of the Tennant family, founded by Gaudeamus Tennant after his emigration from the Channel Islands to New Jersey in the 1790s. Two of his grandsons, Horace and Virgil Tennant [their middle brother Pliny Tennant disappeared into the gold fields of California], were among the founders of Agincourt in 1853.