A celebration of the beginning of spring, the sugaring-off party brought together farmers and villagers, adults and children, in a kind of community reunion after a punishing winter. Occurring in late afternoon or early evening, the sugaring off featured cupfuls of hot maple syrup poured on snow, which congealed into a waxy taffy served with coffee, doughnuts, and sour pickles. Johnson's sugaring-off paintings include characters drawn from the broad range of New England life. The kettle tender, who makes the sugar, is always a central figure, while dancers, fiddlers, card players, farmers, drinkers, children, and flirting men and women also are among the revelers.



Sugaring Off
c. 1861-65
(The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, California. Gift of Virginia Steele Scott Foundation)

 
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