Going For The Cows

Object Number: 
Painted plaster
Overall: 11 5/8 x 14 1/2 x 9 1/2 in. ( 29.5 x 36.8 x 24.1 cm )
signed: front of base to proper left: "JOHN ROGERS/NEW YORK" inscribed: on front: "GOING FOR THE COWS"
Genre figure.
Gallery Label: 
Going for the Cows can be seen as a pendant to Rogers' We Boys (1929.96, 1936.661, 1936.711) of the previous year. These small, similarly scaled groups represent nostalgic country idylls centered on a horse. The sculptor's long-standing interest in animals was evident more than a decade before when he wrote to his mother, "I want to make studies of animals and horses particularly." He took detailed measurements of a variety of horses, and two years after releasing this sculpture he displayed studies of equine anatomy at the National Academy of Design. He also studied Eadweard Muybrudge's pioneering photographs of horses in motion. Rogers produced a number of other sculptures in which horses figure prominently, most notably a life-size equestrian monument to the Civil War general John F. Reynolds. In this rural scene, a boy has ridden to pasture and has lowered the bars of the fence to gain entry, but he and his dog have been diverted from their errand by their investigation of a woodchuck's hole. The boy's face glows with fascinated pleasure; it was said that a member of the Silliman family, one of Rogers' New Canaan, Connecticut, neighbors, was the model. The dog represents another meticulous and affectionate animal study; Rogers' sketchbook (1955.275) includes a drawing of the dog, called Dash. Though only the torso and hind legs of Dash can be seen, the tensed muscles and wagging tail convey its enthusiasm. The composition is framed by the masterfully rendered horse contentedly munching grass. Its body curves protectively around the boy and dog, forming a proscenium for their small drama. Like Rogers' We Boys of the previous year, Going for the Cows was perceived as an appeal to a simple rural past. One writer declared that everyone must sympathize with the boy shirking his work, "for everyone has been a boy or girl . . . and knows from experience or feeling how necessary it is for that boy to watch that dog and, if possible, find that woodchuck." The group continued to be popular through the 1870s and into the 1880s. Later comments included "What busy business man, exiled from the farm, does not stop with a longing homesick feeling, to look once more at 'Going for the Cows?'" The sculpture could be seen as an escape from the cares and complexities of modern urban life to the pleasures of childhood; indeed, Rogers remembered his own youthful years in the country with great fondness. Rogers wrote that the subject "was intended to be so plain that the most careless observer will not fail to see the joke!" This work and We Boys both tell simple and pleasing stories that lack the scale and narrative ambition of some of his works from the preceding years. The early 1870s were a period of experimentation for Rogers as he cast about for new subjects after the success of his Civil War groups. His situation was similar to that of Winslow Homer, the other American artist known for his war subjects. In the early 1870s Homer, too, created seemingly uncomplicated scenes of children enjoying country settings, such as Snap the Whip of 1872 (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). In addition to rural genre, Rogers assayed subjects from literature and theater, sentimental romantic narratives, portraits, and even large figures for outdoors. His pace slowed during this period, perhaps owing to indecision about which path to follow. By the late 1870s he had returned to complex, richly detailed theater subjects, and his genre themes also became larger, more detailed, and more closely connected with contemporary life.
Article, Scrapbooks of miscellaneous clippings, etc. about John Rogers, Vols. 1, 3, 4, New York Historical Society. Daily Evening Transcript, Boston, Dec. 8, 1873, p. 8. Barck, Dorothy, "Rogers Group in the Museum of the New-York Historical Society," New-York Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. XVI, No. 3, October, 1932, p. 76. Smith, Mrs. and Mrs. Chetwood, Rogers Groups: Thought and Wrought by John Rogers, Boston: Charles E. Goodspeed & Co., 1934, pp. 82-3. Wallace, David H., John Rogers, The People's Sculptor, Middleton, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1967, pp. 114, 117, 119, 137, 234-5, 285, 287, 294, 304. Wallace, David H., "The Art of John Rogers: So Real and So True," American Art Journal, November 1972, pp. 59-70. Bleier, Paul and Meta, John Rogers Statuary, Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2001, pp. 142-3.
Credit Line: 
Gift of Mr. Samuel V. Hoffman
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.
Creative: Tronvig Group