This watercolor of the Davidson House is one of my favorite pieces in the Monadnock Center’s museum collection. The Monadnock Center has nine paintings by artist Charles Franklin Pierce (1844-1920) in its painting collection. Pierce was born in Sharon to John and Phila Pierce and grew up on his family’s farm in Peterborough.
At the age of 20, he went to Boston to study art and supported himself doing odd jobs like painting magic lantern slides. In 1868, after four years of study, Pierce embarked on a two year tour of Europe following in the footsteps of many American artists of that time.
Upon his return to the States in 1870, Pierce pursued his career as a painter of detailed and meticulous landscapes, many featuring animals like those he had grown up with on the Peterborough farm.
In 1876, he married Luena Wilder of Peterborough. Luena, a cousin to the famed thermometer manufacturer Charles Wilder, was also a painter.
In 1879, the Pierces began spending spring and summer in Peterborough with the rest of the year spent in Boston. Three years later, the couple purchased the house at 59 Pine Street for $1,600. This brick house, built by Jonas Loring about 1815, has been known in recent years as the Grimshaw House.
During the 1880s and 1890s, Pierce built his career with patrons throughout the United States and Canada collecting his work. He hired agents in various cities to promote his paintings and cultivate collectors. In 1889, he contracted with the Gravure Etching Company to reproduce selected landscape paintings for the popular market.
In 1911, Pierce sold the Pine Street property but continued to visit Peterborough until his death in 1920.
Pierce’s watercolor of the Thomas Davidson House with its butternut trees and well sweep reflects Pierce’s passion for rural themes. The house, located on top of the hill on Old Town Farm Road, was said to be the oldest framed house in town. Deacon Thomas Davidson settled in town in the late 1750s. The house was torn down about 1890.
The Davidson house watercolor was given to the Peterborough Historical Society by Miss Jennie Scott. Miss Scott donated several other Pierce paintings and watercolors, including a portrait of her dog Recco currently on display in the Monadnock Center’s museum.