Thomas Hovenden, Study for "The Village Blacksmith"
Under a spreading chestnut-tree
The village smithy stands;
The smith, a mighty man is he,
With large and sinewy hands;
And the muscles of his brawny arms
Are strong as iron bands.
—Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Village Blacksmith
Soon after marrying fellow artist Helen Corson, Thomas Hovenden settled in Plymouth Meeting, outside Philadelphia. There Hovenden saw firsthand how mechanization and industrialization were replacing the craft involved in making handmade goods.
Inspired by these new realities and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem of the same title, The Village Blacksmith is Hovenden’s homage to the work of local blacksmiths. He wanted to emphasize the artisan’s American qualities, including honesty, self-reliance, and independence.
The model for the work was an actual blacksmith in Plymouth Meeting. Hovenden drew him in a variety of positions, including this one with his right leg bent and propped on a stool, before settling on the figure’s final position.