"See no. 199. Half way down to the shore, Evangeline waited in silence,/ not overcome with grief, but strong in the hour of affliction. " Evangeline was the daughter of Benedict Bellefontaine, the richest farmer of Acadia (now Nova Scotia). At the age of seventeen she was legally betrothed to Gabriel, son of Basil, the blacksmith, but the next day all the colony was exiled by order of George II, and their houses, cattle, and lands were confiscated. Gabriel and Evangeline were parted, and then began the troubles of her life. She wandered from place to place to find her betrothed. Basil had settled in Louisiana, but when Evangeline reached the place, Gabriel had just gone. She then went to the prairies, to Michigan, and so on, but at every place she was just too late to catch him. At length, grown old in this hopeless search, she went to Philadelphia and became a Sister of Mercy. The plague broke out in the city, and as she visited the almshouse, she saw an old man smitten down with the pestilence. It was Gabriel. He tried to whisper her name, but death closed his lips. He was buried, and Evangeline lies beside him in the grave. - Brewer. " Of the numerous painters of Evangeline, Mr. Mayer has succeeded best of all in realizing the character of the maiden of Longfellow's charming poem. Before beginning this superb creation, Mr. Mayer visited Normandy, where the costume to-day is nearly the same as that worn by the French emigrants to Nova Scotia, and made studies of examples belonging to the period of the poem, thus securing historical accuracy. " The period is when the peasants of Arcadia are being driven from their homes; and Evangeline, seated on a rock at twilight, on the shore of the Basin of Minas, is awaiting the arrival of her father, her friend the priest, and her lover Gabriel. Further down the road from Grand Pre, in the half light near the shore, groups of disconsolate women are seen, seated or standing, mourning the land they are about to leave. The exquisitely toned, slightly greenish sky, with the last lights of the sun fading away down below the hills, across the water to the right, and reflected in it, softly illumines the figure with a rosy tinge and empurples the shadows along the shore. The young girl, weary with waiting, looks with pathetic eyes upward, as if her mind sought to search into the future or to invoke the beneficence of heaven. The face and attitude of Evangeline indicate the mood of the moment, before the incidents have occurred which raise her sorrow to the highest point, and introduce her to that path of immitigable woe which she is to tread through life. The artist has kept in mind, however, that at this stage of her experience, notwithstanding the halo of poesy that longfellow has thrown around her, the girl is still a peasant, and also that the shadows born of profound and prolonged grief - such as are depicted strongly in faed's picture - are out of place in so fresh and virginal a counten- ance." [P. 71-72.]
Illustrated Catalogue of Works of Art in the Art Building of the Southern Exposition at Louisville, Ky. August 16 - October 25, 1884. Prepared by Charles M. Kurtz, Director of the Art Department. Editor of National Academy Notes and the Art Union Magazine. Published for the Art Committee by John P. Morton and Company.
Artist professional affiliation: Associate National Academician; F.L.H.