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Homeward Bound by Albert Fitch Bellows

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This pastoral scene depicts a farmer on horseback securely embracing his young daughter as they follow their cattle through a crystalline body of water; the child holds a switch, indicating her importance in the endeavor, ensuring the drive forward. The family dog swims behind them, experience keeping the animal at safe distance from the horse’s hind legs.

The subjects are presented in a serene, mountainous landscape, with a vast expanse of sky peppered with clouds that diffuse the sunlight to various degrees of luminosity, adding a radiant grandeur to the composition. The sun’s rays majestically illuminate the figures, bathing them in light and lending a spiritual quality to the painting.

The Civil War raged in 1863 when this work was painted, and many artists, Bellows among them, sought to depict the idyllic, natural beauty of their country as a promise of better days to come.


  • Excerpt from a letter from Doug Borden to the FRHS curator: “In memory of my dear wife, Joan L. Borden. Her 90th birthday would have been 23 January 2022.”

Details of Painting

  • Artist : Albert Fitch Bellows
  • Artist Dates : 1829-1883
  • Genre : Landscape
  • Year : 1863
  • Material : Oil on Canvas
  • Dimension : 22 3/4" x 36 1/8"
  • Object ID # : 2022.3.1

About the Artist

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Albert Fitch Bellows

Massachusetts & New York

Albert Fitch Bellows (American, 1829-1883), an artist best known for his Hudson River School landscapes and genre scenes, was born in Milford, Massachusetts; he spent considerable time in Fall River, Massachusetts, and was well-known in the city.

Bellows trained to be an architect and briefly engaged in that profession in Boston, a career he quickly abandoned to pursue painting. For six years, beginning in 1850, he taught at the New England School of Design in Boston, where he served as Principal. He resigned his position in 1856 to travel abroad to study painting. Following a brief sojourn in Paris, he settled in Antwerp, Belgium, where he excelled in his studies at the Royal Academy and, in 1858, was elected an honorary member of the Royal Society of Painters of Belgium.

In 1858, he returned to America and resided, briefly, in Boston before settling in New York City, where he established a studio for portrait, figure, genre, and landscape painting; the artist worked in oil and watercolor. Bellows quickly achieved recognition for his Hudson River School landscapes that differed from those of his contemporaries because he often prominently incorporated figures into the composition. The artist specialized in rural landscape and genre scenes of England and New England that were infused with poetic atmosphere; he was noted for his realistic depictions of nature. Bellows eventually maintained two studios, one for oil and the other for watercolor.

In 1867, he traveled to Europe with the intention of concentrating on watercolor painting, revisiting France and Belgium, where he was elected an honorary member of the Royal Belgian Society of Water Colorists. He also spent several months in England, gaining inspiration from the work of the noted British watercolorists of the era.

A brilliant watercolorist, Bellows became one of the most prominent American artists of his era working in that medium; in 1868, he authored a definitive book on the subject.

Bellows took up etching later in his career and was one of the first artists in the United States to attempt large etched plates, in which he came to excel. In recognition of this achievement, he was elected an honorary member of the British Society of Painter Etchers. He executed and published several etchings of rural country scenes that gained great popularity with collectors. Several of his paintings were also reproduced in steel engravings, making his art available to the middle class, thus achieving an even wider acclaim.

In 1851, he married Candace Jane Brown (1831-1900), the daughter of a successful Fall River grain and flour merchant; the Brown family was well-connected in that city’s business and social circles. The couple spent considerable time in Fall River, and Bellows thereafter became closely associated with his wife’s native city, being noted as “a man of unusual presence, refined, [and] cultivated.” Their only child, Howard Perry Bellows (1852-1934), was born in Fall River; in 1880, he, in turn, married Mary Anna Clarke (1851-1946), also a native of that city.

Bellows spent a summer residing in Fall River – possibly in the early 1860s – where he maintained a studio and completed several paintings. He enjoyed many “personal relations” in the city, among them friendships with fellow artists Robert Spear Dunning (1829-1905), the founder of the Fall River School, and Franklin Harrison Miller (1843-1911); the men are known to have sketched and painted together. Several of Bellows’s works hung in private Fall River collections. In 1870, he participated in a major Fall River art exhibition in which he took great interest, exhibiting several of his paintings and sketches, “comprising the ‘Christening Party’ and other subjects, painted in England as studies of English Scenery, and exhibited for the first time in this country.”

“The Christening Party” – a major work by the artist – was part of a trio of paintings depicting an imagined narrative of episodes of a woman’s life from birth to marriage to death: “Morning” (The Christening Party); “Noon” (The Wedding Party); and “Evening” (The Funeral). “The Christening Party” was purchased by Bradford Matthew Chaloner Durfee (1843-1872), a wealthy collector, and exhibited in his Fall River residence.

Throughout his career, Bellows’s work was represented at prestigious exhibitions in the United States and abroad. He was a member of prominent professional associations – among them the National Academy of Design and the American Society of Etchers – and was the recipient of numerous honors.

He died in Auburndale, Massachusetts, and was interred in Oak Grove Cemetery in Fall River; he was so closely associated with the city that Rev. John Westall (1816-1890), pastor of Fall River’s Church of New Jerusalem, assisted at his funeral.

Bellows oil paintings, watercolors, and etchings are represented in the collections of major institutions nationwide.

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  • Due to a major infrastructure project, the FRHS Museum will be closed beginning July 22, 2023. The Musem Shop is closed until further notice.