Art show features the homes of Thoreau

March 16, 2023

Visit Thoreau Farm through March and April to get a close look at 15 original pen-and-ink drawings depicting the homes of Henry David Thoreau — from Virginia Road to Walden — and explore how each shaped his view of the world. The artist, John Roman, calls the drawings “a form of visual archaeology…a metaphor for recreating the past through carefully-crafted ink drawings that provide a peek into Henry’s 19th-century world.”

Several images from this group were featured in the Summer 2022 issue of Discover Concord but the exhibit at Thoreau Farm will be the first time these works are exhibited in Concord. It is also the first time Thoreau Farm has hosted an exhibition of this kind.

“The exhibit is new ground for us,” says Thoreau Farm executive director, Rebecca Migdal, “but what better place to examine all the places Thoreau called home than in his birthplace, his first home? We are delighted to be able to share these drawings, all together, with Concord.”

“The Homes of Henry David Thoreau” exhibit provides a special opportunity to consider Concord as a uniquely wonderful place to live and, as Thoreau called it, “the most estimable place in the world.” It was by living here, in the places depicted in these artworks, that Thoreau developed his ideas about what it means to live deliberately, simply, and with respect for nature and neighbors.

The artist, John Roman, reflects on the opportunity to exhibit at Thoreau Farm:

When I learned my body of art documenting Henry David Thoreau’s life and world was to be the first-ever art exhibit held inside the Thoreau birthplace, my immediate thoughts turned to the well-known mythologist, Joseph Campbell. He said, “Follow your bliss — where your body and soul want to go. Follow that feeling…stay with it…and you will find that doors will open for you where you didn’t even know they were going to be.”

Throughout the nearly 20 years these drawings were in production, the sole incentive for their creation was that “bliss” I felt for Henry’s work. Following that bliss, I could not have envisioned, nor could I have planned such a door to open for the public display of “The Homes of Henry David Thoreau.”

Several drawings in this body of work also appeared in Electrum Magazine (June 2021) in the essay, “The Homes of Henry David Thoreau.” These works previously appeared in a group show at the Duxbury Art Complex Museum from September 2019 through February 2020. One drawing from this project, “Walden Pond circa 1846,” appeared in the feature documentary film, Henry David Thoreau: Surveyor of the Soul (2017) by director Huey.

“Thoreau Farm’s seasonal tours from May to October invite people to view the farmhouse and learn about how Thoreau’s experiences in Concord and beyond led to the generation of his timeless ideas,” explains Migdal. “This exhibit not only opens the house up to the public during our ‘off-season,’ but also invites a closer examination of his homes as part of his inspiration — and not just the one he built at Walden!”

Along with detailed drawings of individual homes, the exhibit will also include the original bird’s-eye view of “Thoreau’s Concord circa 1845” created through a Thoreau Society Fellowship (2003-2006). Through this extraordinarily detailed map of the town, one can trace Thoreau’s paths across the place he loved so much: Concord.

“The Homes of Henry David Thoreau” will be on view from March 4 to April 24 at Thoreau Farm, 341 Virginia Road, Concord. Tickets are $5 per person ($20 per family max) and include a 25 percent discount on a print of John Roman’s “Thoreau’s Concord circa 1845” at the Thoreau Society’s Shop at Walden Pond. Public hours are Saturdays and Sundays, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Mondays, 10am-2pm. The exhibit can also be seen by appointment. Email for more information or to schedule a special viewing.