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Eugene Higgins, American, (1874–1958)
Fording the Stream, n. d.
Oil on Cardboard
9 1/4 in. x 7 1/4 in. (23.5 cm. x 18.42 cm.)

Object Type: Painting
Technique: Painting
Period: Modern 19th - 1945
Credit Line: Gift of General and Mrs. Edward Clinton Young
Accession Number: YO23

"American Reflections", Scripps College and Pomona College galleries, 12/84-12/87.

No marks.

Oil paint on canvas.

Object Description
The two figures of Fording the Stream are almost faceless beneath the heavy incrustation of oil paint, and the scene itself is a generalized group of landscape elements - trees, water, meadow, and sky - combined in an indistinct spatial relationship. Warmth and tenderness emanate from the scene, as the child firmly embraces his protector, and the young man himself resolutely grasps the child's leg.

The weight of the small child causes the husky young man to bend as though he were transporting a truly heavy burden, and in a sense, he is. The Christian theme behind the painting is the legend of St. Christopher, patron saint of travelers, who responded to a child's request to be carried across a stream. With each step, the weight of the child increased until the husky saint was bowed down with his burden. The child then revealed that he was Jesus Christ: Saint Christopher was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. Higgins implies that ordinary human beings are capable of carrying that weight with humanity and dignity. In Fording the Stream, a simple genre scene is raised to an incident of great symbolic significance through the use of traditional Christian imagery.

- Arthur D. Stevens

For more information, please refer to the American Reflections exhibition catalogue.

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