Jean Leon Gerome Ferris (1863-1930)
The First Thanksgiving 1621, ca. 1912-1915
oil on canvas
Jean Leon Gerome Ferris was from a family of artists, but not actually related to the famed painter Jean-Léon Gérôme, after whom he was named. Like the French master, he dedicated his career to history painting, but on his own turf. Ferris spent most of his life in Philadelphia, creating pictures of The Landing of William Penn and other early American adventures. He took great liberties with his portrayal of The First Thanksgiving, playing dress-up with Indians and Pilgrims by adding feathers and flourishes that were not exactly “historical.” But painted in the early years of the Great War, his idealized scene was popular in a world that was less than ideal.