The Shed

Artist Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (American, 1809–1894)


Image/Sheet (oval): 13.0 x 18.5 cm (5 1/8 x 7 5/16 in.) Mount: 17.7 x 22.9 cm (6 15/16 x 9 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Photograph, albumen print

Not On View


Americas, Photography



During the mid-nineteenth century, Boston was an important center for photography in the United States. Oliver Wendell Holmes, a noted author, physician, and member of New England’s intellectual aristocracy, praised the importance of photography in the history of human progress in articles for the Atlantic Monthly. Holmes also invented a new type of stereoscopic viewer and practiced photography as a gifted amateur. Holmes’s image of a shed on his Cambridge property emphasizes its clean, geometric lines. The oval format tightens the composition and concentrates our attention on the alternation of sunlit surfaces and dark voids that defines the structure. A bright interior window shines near the center of the picture, suggesting a view beyond the surface toward the inner reality of honest simplicity that underlies the New England spirit.


Recto, on mount to right of image in graphite: 4

Signed verso, u. l., in ink: OW Holmes

Notations lower center in graphite: Ammoniated paper
exposed 14 minutes


Mrs. Edward Jackson Holmes; bequest May 1965.

Credit Line

Bequest of Mrs. Edward Jackson Holmes, Edward Jackson HolmesCollection