Aruba Brownel Finch


fits modern society’s conceptions of a folk artist more neatly than many nineteenth-century amateurs so labeled. The painter was born, raised, and buried in the samesmall community; not even marriage took her more than ten miles from her childhood home. Although aware of period styles and conventions, she developed personalsolutions to artistic problems and showed little reliance on academic sources. These facts and the number of works executed for friends and neighbors suggest thatFinch enjoyed a longstanding closely-knit support system, one that not only met her social needs but also encouraged her interest in artistic endeavors.The artist was born in Westport, Massachusetts on November 20, 1804, the second of seven children of Benjamin Devol Jr. and Elizabeth Rounds. Nothing isknown of her schooling. An 1831 family register, done for neighbor Silas Kirby, establishes that Finch was engaged in artwork prior to her marriage. On November 8,1832, she married William T.Finch of nearby New Bedford.Half- and full-length portraits (two of the former being memorials) as well as two serial illustrations of the story of the Prodigal Son constitute the remainder of Finch’s known body of work in watercolor. Evidence of her creativity and willingness to experiment can be found in the original verses that she added to somelikenesses. Differences between her two depictions of the Prodigal Son reflect her efforts to improve the clarity and cohesiveness of the overall composition and itscorrelation between text and imagery. Despite the naïveté of their execution, her profile portraits are distinguished by individualistic details, such as Abner Davis’s patterned stockings, dotted waistcoat, and even small hairs on the back of his hand. Finally, although pictorial motifs sometimes recur in Finch’s works, she avoidedslavish repetition. For instance, spread eagles appear on three of her pieces, yet each is distinctly posed. Decorative qualities were important to Finch. Even her plainest portraits, such as her full-length likenesses of Abner and Betsy Allen Davis, incorporate the unusual compositional device of plinths, which are set beneath the figuresand artfully twined with vines.Ruby and William T.Finch had one daughter, Judith, who married Otis Pierce, a mason. When Finch died of a tumor on July 7, 1866, in New Bedford, she had been a widow for an undetermined length of time and appears to have been living with her elderly widowed mother.
See also
Painting, American Folk
Rumford, Beatrix T., ed.
American Folk Portraits: Paintings and Drawings from the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center.
Boston, 1981. ——.
American Folk Paintings: Paintings and Drawings Other Than Portraits from the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Center.
Boston, 1988.Walters, Donald R. “Out of Anonymity: Ruby Devol Finch (1804–1866).”
Maine Antique Digest
(June 1978): 1C-4C