New-York Historical Society

New York, New York

(212) 873-3400

William Sidney Mount: Painter of American Life

August 11 to October 25, 1998


Opening August 11, 1998, at The New-York Historical Society, William Sidney Mount: Painter of American Life is a major exhibition exploring the career of an artist who virtually invented American genre painting. The exhibition, organized by The Museums at Stony Brook and The American Federation of Arts, will later travel to the Frick Art Museum in Pittsburgh and the Amon Carter Museum in Fort Worth.

William Sidney Mount (1807-1868) was the first American-born painter to achieve widespread fame for his depictions of everyday life. This major loan exhibition, the first focused consideration of Mount's artistic achievement, will present his works in all media. The chronologically-organized exhibition juxtaposes finished paintings with preparatory sketches and prints in order to examine both Mount's working methods and the manner in which his paintings were disseminated through the print medium. The selection will reveal how thoroughly Mount's images penetrated 19th-century American culture and how his vision of culture in the formative decades of the country helped shape the way the nation sees itself today.

The exhibition includes several William Sidney Mount paintings from the permanent collection of The New-York Historical Society: Coming to the Point, Dregs in the Cup and Bargaining for a Horse.

The exhibition is curated by Deborah J. Johnson, president and chief executive officer of The Museums at Stony Brook. Working with Franklin Kelly, curator of American and British painting at the National Gallery of Art, and Bernard F. Reilly, Jr., director of research and access at the Chicago Historical Society, Johnson has selected 50 original paintings and works on paper and 11 reproductions after works by Mount. Featured paintings include such iconic works as Dancing on the Barn Floor (1831), The Power of Music (1847) and The Banjo Player (1856).

Above Left: Bargaining for a Horse; Above Right: The Truant Gamblers, 1835, oil on canvas, 24 x 30 inches

Although Mount took his scenes from his native village of Stony Brook, Long Island, his art raises issues that reflect the social, political and moral concerns of many Americans of his time. William Sidney Mount: Painter of American Life (The American Federation of Arts, 160 pp., 9x11, 54 color plates, 35 half-tones, soft-cover, $29.95), the catalog accompanying the exhibition, seeks to redress the perceived misinterpretation of the artist in literature to date.

Deborah Johnson's lead essay will examine Mount's life and work and his impact on his contemporaries and subsequent generations of American artists. Franklin Kelly discusses Mount's patronage; Bernard F. Reilly, Jr., examines the political implications of graphic work produced by the artist and others after his images; Elizabeth Johns, Professor, American Art History at the University of Pennsylvania, explores the meanings underlying the broad popularity of Mount's depiction of boyhood.

The exhibition is organized by The Museums at Stony Brook and The American Federation of Arts. The exhibition and catalog are made possible in part by a generous grant from The Henry Luce Foundation, Inc. Funding has been received from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the New York State Council on the Arts.

Additional support has been provided by The Brown Foundation, Inc., and the National Patrons of the AFA. The opening installation at The New-York Historical Society is made possible by a grant from the David Schwartz Foundation, Inc., and an additional grant from the Henry Luce Foundation, Inc.

Open Tuesday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., The New-York Historical Society is located at Two West 77th Street at Central Park West. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for students and seniors. For general information, call (212) 873-3400.

Farmers Nooning, 1836, oil on canvas, 20 1/4 x 24 1/2 inches, The Museums at Stony Brook, gift of Frederick Murges, Jr.

Text and images courtesy of the New York Historical Society

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For further biographical information please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

rev. 11/26/10

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