First Flight was begun during tobacco harvesting season in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. It was painted in a baking hay loft while neighbors decked their rafters with the skins of tobacco. The composition was finished seasons later after the crop was cashed and smoked, ribbons of the may pole were tattered, foals born, silos filled. The birds – a cloud of fins, sails, dots and dashes – had gone south again. Its scale – traditionally reserved for religious or history painting – is a reflection of McRae Morton’s American culture. The identity of the figures as Amish, however, is disguised. Vignettes allude to paintings by Gustave Millet, Vincent Van Gogh, Winslow Homer, and Andrew Wyeth.
The frame for this painting was hand made by a Lancaster County Cabinetmaker and crafted of walnut from a tree that fell on the property of McRae Morton’s father’s childhood home in West Virginia.
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