School Days

Object Number: 
Painted plaster on terracotta surface
Overall: 21 3/8 x 12 3/8 x 8 1/4 in. ( 54.3 x 31.4 x 21 cm )
signed: center front top of base: "JOHN ROGERS/NEW YORK/....." inscribed: front of base: "SCHOOL DAYS"
Genre figure.
Gallery Label: 
Rogers had taken childhood education as a theme in the past, including the intimate drama of the student under pressure in The School Examination of 1867 and the budding romance of The Favored Scholar, 1872. For this work, however, Rogers surprised viewers by referring to a period in one's life rather than to an actual school subject. The title suggests that School Days is not a commentary on contemporary life but a nostalgic glimpse of a fleeting period of innocence and enjoyment. The scene takes place on the street where two children (modeled after Rogers' daughter Katherine and his son Charles) have stopped on their way to school, fascinated by an organ grinder and his monkey. The man stands with his weight on his back foot cranking his instrument somewhat perfunctorily. Organ grinders were a common (and, for some, annoying) part of New York street life, and many were recent immigrants. Though Rogers did not specify his street musician's nationality, several commentators described him as Italian, perhaps based on the figure's bushy hair and mustache. The girl is entranced by the remarkably detailed figures dancing in the organ, and the boy is discovering that the monkey has stolen his hat. Rogers issued this group at approximately the same time as The Traveling Magician (1936.637, 1926.35). He may have intended the two views of street life to function as pendants. It has been said that monkeys were considered bad luck during this period, and, indeed, School Days seemed ill-fated. Rogers exhibited it at the National Academy of Design's 1877 annual exhibition, where it seems not to have attracted critical notice. The group sold poorly; perhaps a scene of urban street life was considered inappropriate for middle-class parlors.
Articles, Scrapbooks of miscellaneous clippings, etc. about John Rogers, Vol. 4, New York Historical Society. Daily Evening Transcript, Boston, Oct. 30, 1877, p. 6. 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. 78. Smith, Mrs. and Mrs. Chetwood, Rogers Groups: Thought and Wrought by John Rogers, Boston: Charles E. Goodspeed & Co., 1934, pp.84-5. Wallace, David H., John Rogers, The People's Sculptor, Middleton, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1967, pp. 117, 149, 242-3, 285, 294, 301, 304. Holzer, Harold, and Farber, Joseph, "The Sculpture of John Rogers," Antiques Magazine, April 1970, pp. 756-68. Bleier, Paul and Meta, John Rogers Statuary, Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing Ltd., 2001, pp. 162-3.
Credit Line: 
Gift of Mr. Samuel V. Hoffman
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.
Creative: Tronvig Group