This major work is remarkably similar in substance to one of Phelps’ best-known paintings, his Tillers of the Soil, which he created while at Etzenhausen, Bavaria. An impressive painting in both size and execution, Phelps exhibited this piece at the Academy of the Fine Arts in New York, the Art Exposition in Milwaukee, and at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Harvesting Potatoes was likely created shortly after Phelps returned to the United States, probably around the years of the late 1870s or early 1880s. Whether capturing New England potato farmers or Bavarian peasants, Phelps depicted working class families with a reverence and fascination. He was remembered as the “Painter of Monadnock,” and as such, Phelps observed his environment with a sensitive eye to its natural beauty, capturing its meadows, farmlands, hills and even residents upon his canvases in truthful, yet artistic portrayals.
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Private collection, New Jersey