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Joseph Henry Hidley (1830–1872), who painted “Noah’s Ark,” was a cabinetmaker, taxidermist and handyman as well as a painter. During his short career from about 1859 until his death, Hidley decorated many farmhouses around Poestenkill, a small town ten miles west of Troy, New York, He painted “Noah’s Ark” in oil on a wood panel to enclose a fireplace in the living room of a farm near Troy.

Left fatherless at the age of four, Hidley spent the next 16 years with three different guardians, as his mother apparently felt unable to care for him. When Hidley was 20, his third guardian died. His mother—who had been engaged to marry her son’s guardian—moved out of the area. Hidley, however, remained in Poestenkill and in 1853 married Caroline Mathilda Danforth.

It is not known whether Hidley had any artistic training. The quality of his work suggests hat he did. In addition to painted fireboards, such as “Noah’s Ark,” Hidley painted a few other biblical scenes, still lifes, scenes of everyday life and allegorical scenes on panels over doors or under windows. These were often modeled on published prints.

Although Hidley painted several portraits, he is best known for his landscapes of Poestenkill and surrounding towns. He painted with a particular regard for the quality of light achieved through glazes of transparent color over a light ground. Hidley knew the towns and countryside extremely well, and his townscapes exhibit a vitality often lacking in his decorative paintings.