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Breaking Home Ties

Thomas Hovenden, American (born Ireland), 1840 - 1895

Made in United States, North and Central America


Oil on canvas

52 1/8 inches × 6 feet 1/4 inches (132.4 × 183.5 cm) Framed: 6 feet 4 1/8 inches × 8 feet 1/4 inches (193.4 × 244.5 cm)

Curatorial Department:
American Art

* Gallery 211, American Art, second floor

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift of Ellen Harrison McMichael in memory of C. Emory McMichael, 1942

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Voted the most popular painting at the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition in 1893, Breaking Home Ties captured the American imagination as few other pictures have. The 1890s saw the decline of small family farms and the necessity of young sons leaving the land to make a living in the city or on what little was left of the frontier. The scene Thomas Hovenden depicts here had been enacted in many homes, and the composition gave American families a visual record of their own turmoil. The artist used models he knew well: each figure can be identified as a relative or friend of the Hovendens, including the family dog.

* Works in the collection are moved off view for many different reasons. Although gallery locations on the website are updated regularly, there is no guarantee that this object will be on display on the day of your visit.