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Photo credit: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University

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Title: Evangeline
Date: 1856
Medium: Pastel
Dimensions: Support: 36 5/8 × 29 5/8 inches (93 × 75.2 cm) Frame: 50 1/2 × 43 1/2 inches (128.3 × 110.5 cm)
Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. Quinto Maganini
Object Number: 57.398
Label Text: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1847 poem Evangeline was a popular romantic saga describing the plight of a fictional Acadian girl. Evangeline Bellefontaine was betrothed to her beloved, Gabriel Lajeunesse, but forced to separate when the British deported the Acadians from their homeland. The narrative follows Evangeline across the landscapes of America as she spends years in a search of her lover, at times being provocatively near to him without realizing it. She settles in Philadelphia and, as an old woman while working as a Sister of Mercy among the poor, she finds Gabriel among the sick. He dies in her arms.

Evangeline’s story became a popular subject for artists soon after the poem’s publication. Probably the best-known version is the one by Thomas Faed, now in the Manchester Art Gallery. It proved as popular as the poem, and Faed’s brother James made it into an engraving so that it could be more widely circulated. Even Currier and Ives made a version around 1860.

Saintin copied either the painting or the engraving. The most notable difference from Faed’s version is the colors. If it is from the engraving, that might explain why, with only a black-and-white reference, he was on his own when deciding the choice of colors. In both versions, Evangeline sits in a cemetery, most likely after her lover’s death. But in Faed’s version, her eyes seem to look upward as if in prayer, while in Saintin’s work, she gazes off into the distance. Saintin’s use of pastel effectively captures both the soft and detailed lines found in Faed’s painting and creates an interesting reinterpretation.

Though not nearly as popular today, the opening line of Longfellow’s poem is still frequently recognized: “This is the forest primeval.” In 1913 it was produced as a musical on Broadway and in 1929 it was made into a silent film starring Dolores del Rio. (“Drawing the Line: 150 Years of European Artists on Paper," curated by Nancy E. Green and presented at the Johnson Museum January 20–June 10, 2018)

NOTE: This electronic record is compiled from historic documentation which may not reflect the Johnson Museum's complete or current knowledge of the object. Review and refinement of such records is ongoing.