Winslow Homer (1836 -1910)
The Country School, 1871
Oil on canvas,  21.2 x 38.2 in
St. Louis Art Museum

Class is in full session.  In this era, the boys and girls sat on opposite sides of the room. The unhappy boy on the right-hand side is apparently being punished by being told to sit with the girls. The view from the school's window in this painting is similar to the “mountain” version of  Snap the Whip, and the young boy with his face in a book is the same boy standing in the door in School Time.  Both of these elements  connect the painting to Hurley's Eagle's Nest one-room schoolhouse.  However, the interior is not the rustic interior of a rural schoolhouse.  Rather, the vaulted ceiling and large windows suggest that Homer modeled the interior after a more formal school building, possibly one like the District #4 school on Zandhoek Road which served the village of  Hurley.  See Then-and-Now photographs below.


District School No. 4 on Zandhoek Road built in 1836 to replace the old stone school on Main Street.  The first floor is stone; the second story is wood frame. Photo attributed to Dr. George Nash, 1914. (Hurley museum collection)


The old District No. 4 School on Zandhoek Road was dismantled after the new Hurley Union Free School Number 4. (now the E.C. Myer School) was built in 1939.  The top floor was removed, set on a prepared foundation next to it, and converted to a residence.  As you can see, it still stands today. Note that the round window in the gable end of the school has been preserved. The next door neighbors tell us that during periods of drought, they can see the outline of the old school foundation as a pattern in the grass -- a ghost of Hurley's past.

The interior has been completely remodeled, and we have no vintage photographs of it.  Therefore, we have not been able to confirm that Homer used this school as the interior for The Country School although other elements of the painting do suggest Hurley.  (Photo: Bruce Whistance 2019)