Hingham Artists to Know: Franklin Whiting Rogers

In the ballroom of Old Derby hangs a grand, late 19th-century masterpiece of canine portraiture titled Sisters or Four Hounds. It was painted by Franklin Whiting Rogers (1854-1917), who lived in Hingham most of his life. He painted from his studio and home on Free Street for most of a long career which spanned the post Civil War years until 1917.

Sisters or Four Hounds, c. 1880. This work of animal portraiture is unusual for its nearly life-size depiction of a group of dogs rather than a single animal proudly posed to display its best features.

Sisters or Four Hounds, c. 1880. This work of animal portraiture is unusual for its nearly life-size depiction of a group of dogs rather than a single animal proudly posed to display its best features.

The somnolent dogs, piled together on an old rusty brown rug, are painted life-size and up close. The painting is so evocative it almost breathes the scent and sighs of warm sleepy dogs who are resting after the hunt and have just enjoyed the reward of a big meal.

Detail of a landscape from Turkey Hill, c. 1880

Detail of a landscape from Turkey Hill, c. 1880

There is a large snowy landscape by Rogers that hangs in Hingham’s Town Hall by a second floor meeting room—you can see it on the way to a hearing or meeting. Broadly painted and bathed in sunshine, the snowy scene is a sweeping view from Turkey Hill, according to family lore. Down the hill behind treetops is an unidentified building with a tall stack—perhaps an old shingle mill. The painting captures the frosty atmosphere of sky and subtle color shifts of snow.

These two paintings have long been available for us to see but probably few know much about the artist, who was raised in Hingham and became a talented and successful painter. Both works exemplify his success at painting subjects much in demand by Boston art collectors during the 19th century: rural landscapes and portraits of pets and livestock.

Country landscapes infused with atmospheric light became very popular after Boston artist William Morris Hunt introduced and promoted French Barbizon-style paintings to New England in the 1850s. American artists were quick to fulfill the public’s taste.

His Dog Bruno, c. 1890

His Dog Bruno, c. 1890

Canine portraiture had a long tradition in Britain and the fashion carried “across the pond.” Wealthy dog fanciers and sports-men would commission portraiture for their home or perhaps to lend masculine décor for a men’s club. Rogers’ dog portraits were forthright, sincere and unsentimental. He found a niche and it was said, “his connection with animals was almost uncanny. . . . [M]any a model posed for him as if it were a pleasure.”

During an era when Boston was considered a premier art center and “The Athens of America,” Rogers exhibited widely, was well connected, and was highly respected by his peers. His 1917 obituary praised him as an artist “endowed with a strong personality and rare gifts.” Rare gifts indeed for keen observation, technical expertise and the ability to convey his love for nature and animals:

As he studied animals so he studied trees and truly grasped their character. He was ever fond of nature. A long life spent in the woods and fields along the shores of this and neighboring towns filled his mind with knowledge and love of the more subtle and delicate aspects of landscape.

Whether painting landscape or animals, Rogers’ sensitive empathetic nature enabled his work to be expressive of an individual character, not just a generic likeness. Throughout life Rogers owned many dogs and painted them with love and respect. His Dog Bruno is an endearing portrait of a black mixed breed that hangs in our Historical Society archives.

Due to eye problems in his last years, Rogers turned to painting “en plein air.” His difficulties did not prevent him from continuing to be a prolific and talented painter.
[To be continued]

14 thoughts on “Hingham Artists to Know: Franklin Whiting Rogers

  1. Joan Brancale says:

    Paula, it looks great! I like your layout, hoe images integrate with text. Thanks again, Joan

    Sent from my iPad


  2. […] (Part II of a blog post on Hingham artist Franklin Whiting Rogers. Part I can be found here.) […]

  3. Bill says:


    I very much enjoyed your article(s), thank you for taking the time to research and publish.


  4. Barb says:

    Any history of the house on 30 Free st where Rogers lived? Looking for pictures of the house as old as possible.

    • pbagger says:

      Hi Barb. Are you in the Boston/southeastern Massachusetts area? If so, we can schedule a research visit for you. If further afield, we can discuss. You can PM us on Facebook if you want to give us your contact information privately.

      • Barb says:

        No unfortunately I am in the upstate ny area. My daughter has just bought 30 free street. I would love to find either an old pic of the house, an inside pic of the house or a print of one of Franklin Whiting Rogers paintings as a house warming gift for her.what would be the name of the FB page I could contact you directly?


      • pbagger says:

        Hingham Historical Society

  5. Janet M. (Rogers) Cole says:

    My father was Paul Franklin Rogers son of artist Franklin Whiting Rogers and grew up at 30 Free Street, Hingham

    • Lisa Halvorson-Schneider says:

      Hello Janet
      My mother in law, Betty (1926-2017) is the daughter of Theodore Lothrup Rogers, she also grew up at 33 Free Street. I have a few pics of the house when Theodore was a boy. I have 1 with studio in background although I have to locate it..
      I do Ancestry for Rogers family..
      Lisa MN

      • Barb wiktorek says:

        You have pics of 30 free st? I would love to pass them along to my daughter! Thanks!

    • Mark Rogers says:

      Hello Janet, my name is Mark Clifford Rogers, Franklin was my great grandfather, my grandfather was Mark Clifford Rogers, Franklins son and your father’s brother, thank you for your posting and filling in some of the blanks, kind regards, Mark

  6. Barbara Stacy Wiktorek says:

    Any stories of the old house I might pass along to my daughter that bought 30 Free st?

    • Lisa Halvorson-Schneider says:

      I do Rogers Ancestry ..my mother in law Betty (1926-2017) is daughter of Theodore Lothrup Rogers and granddaughter of Franklin W Rogers. She, David and Allan grew up in that house…

  7. […] entirely to painting. Having moved to Hingham in 1921, Smith perhaps knew fellow successful artists Franklin Whiting Rogers on Free Street and Louis and Beatrice Ruyl on Gardner […]

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