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Open Content Program

The Birmingham Museum of art makes available digital images of works in the Museum’s collection believed to be in the public domain. Images are available free of charge for any use, commercial or non-commercial. Users do not need to contact the Museum for authorization to use these images. They are available through the Online Collection at artsbma.org/collection. See detailed instructions for specific work types below.

Identifying Open Content Images

The mission of the Birmingham Museum of Art is to spark the creativity, imagination, and liveliness of Birmingham by connecting all its citizens to the experience, meaning, and joy of art. The Museum understands that by sharing images of works online without restrictions, the BMA collection becomes more accessible to a larger audience.

For objects with images the rights status is displayed in the “credit line” section of the object information. The rights status or rights holder will be indicated. If the work is in the public domain and/or the image may be downloaded, the download icon will appear in the bottom right corner of the image area. To search the collection click here.

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For copyright-protected images that have been approved by copyright holders, a presentation-sized image is available, but can not be downloaded. A copyright statement clearly listing the name of the copyright holder is visible in the credit line area when the image is displayed. Thumbnail-sized images of copyrighted works are displayed under fair use.

When the owner of a work is impossible to determine or contact, the work is deemed an orphan work. The Museum will make thumbnails of orphan works available. If you are the representative or rights holder of an orphan work, please contact Rights and Reproductions.

Credit/Citations

Please use the following source credit when reproducing an Open Content image: Courtesy Birmingham Museum of Art, followed by the credit line provided in the object description.

Although there are no restrictions or conditions of the use of an Open Content image, the BMA would appreciate a gratis copy of any scholarly publication(s) in which the images are reproduced in order to maintain collection bibliography. Copies may be sent to the attention of:

Open Content Program
Digital Media Department
The Birmingham Museum of Art
2000 Rev. Abraham Woods Jr. Blvd
Birmingham, AL 35203

Disclaimer

  • If an image is not available under Open Content it may be because the work is still under copyright, the work is not owned by the museum, or the work has not yet been photographed to BMA standards.
  • Request Images: If an image of a work is not available online or is under copyright, you may submit a request through our online request form. You may also request files in additional sizes or formats. A fee will be charged for this service.
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Study for Who Shall Eat the Fruit Thereof?

Thomas Hovenden

About 1883

Thomas Hovenden overcame a difficult childhood to become one of the most successful American artists of the late nineteenth century. Born in Dunmanway, Ireland, at the age of six Hovenden lost his parents to the potato famine and grew up in an orphanage in County Cork. Hovenden was apprenticed to a master gilder and carver who, recognizing the teen’s skill, encouraged him to enroll in the Cork School of Design in 1858. Five years later, Hovenden immigrated to the United States, where he was reunited with his older brother. He enrolled in night classes at the National Academy of Design and became an illustrator for Harper’s. In 1874, Hovenden made his way to Paris, where he studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in the studio of the French academic painter Alexandre Cabanel (1823-89). Hovenden also spent time at the American artists’ colony at Pont-Aven, Brittany, painting rural subjects. Hovenden returned to the United States in 1881, and the following year he was elected a full member of the National Academy of Design. After Thomas Eakins was forced to resign his teaching post at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Hovenden succeeded him, teaching there from 1886 until 1888, and becoming a mentor to Robert Henri, founder of the so-called Ashcan School. Hovenden reached the pinnacle of his success in 1893, when Breaking Home Ties (1890, Philadelphia Museum of Art) was voted the most popular painting at the fair. Two years later, Hovenden’s life was tragically cut short when he was struck by a train while trying to rescue a child from the tracks.  


Study of a Man with a Grindstone belongs to a lineage that includes William Sidney Mount’s Who’ll Turn the Grindstone (1851, Long Island Museum), Francis W. Edmonds’ The Scythe Grinder (1856, The New-York Historical Society), and Eastman Johnson’s Sharpening the Scythe (ca. 1865, Brooklyn Museum of Art). The three latter canvases, which all depict a young boy turning the grindstone for a grown man, derive from the story by Charles Miner (1780-1865) first published in 1810, entitled Who’ll Turn Grindstone, in which an adult flatters a young boy into doing the hard work of turning the wheel, causing him to be late for school. In Hovenden’s study, however, there is no boy to turn the grindstone, and the implement of labor ironically becomes a thing of leisure, providing a perch for the old farmer to rest upon.