Samuel Lancaster Gerry (1813-1891)

  • Samuel Lancaster Gerry (1813-1891)
  • Woodland Work
  • Oil on canvas
  • 10 x 14 inches
  • Signed lower right

In Woodland Work, Gerry depicts the arduous task of stump grubbing, or tree stump removal. The methods of clearing the American wilderness had changed little since the settlers in the 17th century. In order to cultivate the land trees were first removed using a felling axe, by burning, or by girdling in which a large strip of bark was removed from around the trunk causing the tree to die and eventually fall naturally. The arrival of patent stump-pullers in the mid-19th century promised to ease the backbreaking labor of stump grubbing, but they were often impractical and costly. In order to extract the stump in Woodland Work, a windlass, or pulley was used to attach a cable around the stump to be removed. The three woodsmen on the right maneuver a large lever beside the stump while another man stands beside two yokes of oxen. To remove the stump, one end of the lever would have been chained to the stump while the other end was hitched to the oxen. The oxen then would be driven around the stump in a circle until it was twisted out of the ground. [1]

While images of woodsmen, felled trees, and tree stumps were commonly used in 19th century American landscape painting to symbolize civilization and the destruction of the American wilderness in Woodland Work Gerry has given us a rare glimpse into one of the many daunting physical challenge faced by American settlers. [2]

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Samuel Lancaster Gerry Woodland Work
Samuel Lancaster Gerry Woodland Work unframed