This painting is colorful and endearing at first glance, and provides a delightful look into the play room of two Victorian children, but once we know why it was painted this picture takes on a very somber quality. Willie and Annie contracted scarlet fever and died one day apart in June, 1878. Springfield artist George F. Bottume offered to paint a likeness of the children following their deaths. Bottume was a friend and neighbor of the children’s parents, Andrew and Mary Spear Hoe. According to the death records, Willie was three and Annie was two at the time of their deaths. They are both buried at Springfield Cemetery.
BOTTUME, George F. (1828 – 1900)
The artist George Bottume was born in Lisbon, CT in 1828. Around the age of thirteen, he left to study in NYC, returning around 1845. For a time he worked in Norwich, and then traveled throughout Connecticut. He eventually settled in Springfield MA where he was primarily a portrait painter, although he was known to have completed some landscapes. He died on July 17, 1900 at the age of 72. (See Death Records registered in the City of Springfield, 1900.)