A Lively Experiment

Notes on collections at the RIHS

Object Thursday: The Foundry

Foundry, New England Butt Company. Oil on canvas by Hugo Breul, 1886. RIHS Museum Collection

Foundry, New England Butt Company. Oil on canvas by Hugo Breul, 1886. RIHS Museum Collection

As the end of August approaches, school has started for many students, and summer feels like it’s over. Labor Day is around the corner, and most of us will have the day off.

Sometimes we forget the origins of the holiday in the nationwide Pullman Strike of 1894, but the men shown here would have known long, hot days in the New England Butt Company foundry (now the Pearl Street Lofts just past Classical High School in Providence).

This painting by Hugo Breul was made in 1886, eight years before workers were given a holiday that, according to the United States Department of Labor, was typically observed by “a street parade to exhibit to the public the strength and spirit de corps of the trade and labor organizations, followed by a festival for the workers and their families.”

You can celebrate Labor Day this year with the RIHS at the Museum of Work & Culture in Woonsocket, when the Museum is open free of charge, Professor Scott Molloy will speak on the importance of Labor Day, and a play on the closing of the Social Mill will be presented (more information is here).

Until Monday, you have the painting made by local artist Hugo Breul, who studied with Gustave Brulanger and William Merritt Chase before establishing a studio in Providence. Breul’s skill at portraiture and landscape are joined in this interior view of the New England Butt Company’s foundry on Pearl Street in Providence. Although the skillful rendering of light and color romanticize the hot, smoky reality of the workplace,  Breul’s workers are imbued with quiet strength and dignity. They’ve earned their holiday; we hope you will enjoy yours.

~Kirsten Hammerstrom, Director of Collections


2 comments on “Object Thursday: The Foundry

  1. RA
    31 August 2013

    I saw this blog post “A Cordwainer, a Wedding Shoe & a Gaspee Patriot” and thought you might like to see it

  2. rihswebsite
    17 September 2013

    Thank you! Yes, I have seen it, and what a great blog, too!

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