William Sidney Mount specialized in scenes of everyday life, known as genre paintings. He was one of the earliest American artists to do so, and his compositions, including Bar-room Scene, were rich in narrative and humor and engaged with the complex cultural, political, and racial circumstances that defined antebellum society. Here Mount portrayed a boisterous group of patrons in a country tavern. The seated men encourage the drunken dance of the central figure, whose tattered clothes and inebriated state suggest a less fortunate position. Standing in the back corner is an African American figure, who, as a free black man in 1830s New York, was able to frequent the public tavern, but, as Mount makes clear visually, did not participate fully or equally in this community.
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The William Owen Goodman and Erna Sawyer Goodman Collection
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“The Fine Arts,” The Knickerbocker, June 1835, 550–556, no. 141, 554.
The American Cyclopedia, A Popular Dictionary of General Knowledge, Vol. XII (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1883), 7–8.
Alfred Frankenstein, William Sidney Mount (Abrams, Inc., 1975).
Barbara T. Ross, American Drawings in the Art Museum, Princeton University Exhibition, October 3–November 28, 1976, 108, no. 109, (not included in exhibition history).
Art Institute of Chicago, Master Paintings in The Art Institute of Chicago (Boston and Toronto: Little, Brown, 1988), 81, ill.
Marvin D. Schwartz, “The Art Institute’s New Wing,” Antiques and the Arts Weekly, November 4, 1988, 1, 60–62, ill. p. 60.
Benjamin Nelson Pftingstag, Aspects of Form and Time in the Paintings of Willliam Sidney Mount (Ann Arbor: University Microfilms International, 1980), Ph.D. diss., 92, 119–122; mentioned under an earlier title: The Breakdown.
Judith A. Barter et al., American Arts at The Art Institute of Chicago: From Colonial Times to World War I (Art Institute of Chicago, 1998).
New York, National Academy of Design (May–?), Tenth Annual Exhibition, no. 141.
Art Institute of Chicago, The Friends of American Art, Loan Exhibition of American Paintings at the Art Institute of Chicago, Jan. 8–28, 1914, no. 49, as The Breakdown.
Brooklyn Museum, Exhibition of Drawings and Paintings by William Sidney Mount: 1807–1868, Jan. 23–Mar. 8, 1942, no. 40, ill. as The Breakdown.
New York, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, William Sidney Mount and His Circle, Jan. 31–?, 1945, no. 11 as The Breakdown.
Long Island, New York, The Suffolk Museum at Stony Brook, The Mount Brothers (Aug. 23–Sept. 28, 1947, no. 67, p. 44, ill. p. 28 as The Breakdown.
Milwaukee Art Institute, 19th Century American Masters, Feb. 20–Mar. 28, 1948, no. 34 as The Breakdown.
Cincinnati Art Museum, Rediscoveries in American Painting, Oct. 3–Nov. 6, 1955, no. 63 and p. 14 as The Breakdown.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, American Narrative Painting, no. 24, ill. p. 62 as The Breakdown.
William Sydney Mount: American Genre Painter Amon Carter Museum, Fort Worth Feb. 5–May 4, 1999.
Gouverneur Kemble, Cold Spring, N.Y., 1835. Ehrich Galleries, New York, by 1911; William Owen and Erna Sawyer Goodman, Chicago, 1911; given to the Art Institute of Chicago, 1939.
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