(1807 - 1868)
William Sidney Mount was active/lived in New York. William Mount is known for genre, history, portrait, and landscape painting.
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Biography from the Archives of askART
Born on a farm in Setauket, Long Island, William Mount became what art
historian Matthew Baigell described as the "foremost American genre
painter." When other artists were trying to copy European
academic subjects of history, religion, and literature, he stayed in
America and focused on the daily lives of East Coast people.
Biography from Godel & Co. Fine Art, Inc.
of his paintings expressed moralistic and political views, and he was
also the first major American artists to portray black people with
dignity although he opposed abolition of slavery. Because of his
humble subject matter and skillful realistic execution, he was well
received by an American public of the era of Jacksonian
democracy. His serene agrarian paintings were also a welcome
contrast to the increasing complexities of the Industrial Revolution.
had a long-time studio at Stony Brook on Long Island, and many years
later a local man, Ward Melville, established a collection honoring
Mount, the first significant American-born painter to devote most of
his profession to genre painting.
He was raised on the
Setauket farm, and when his father died, Mount, age 7, was sent to live
with relatives. He served an apprenticeship in his brother's sign
painting shop in New York City. He studied engraving, and in
1826, was one of the first students of drawing at the National Academy
where his primary subject was history painting. But the next
year, ill health caused him to return to Setauket where from 1830, he
spent the remainder of his life doing genre paintings of his
contemporaries. However, his portrait painting became his earliest
livelihood, and he also did local landscapes as well as still lifes.
a genre painter, he did numerous scenes of everyday and commonplace
life, skillfully executed with meticulous detail and painstaking
glazing. The focus of his work was the "American-ness of the new
country's culture" (American Art Review 12/98).
he never traveled to Europe, he became the first American painter to be
known widely there because his lithography pieces, thanks to New Yorker
William Schaus who worked with a European dealer, were circulated
throughout Europe. Part of their popularity was the fact that blacks
and their place in American society were included as subjects,
reflecting the racial tensions of the late 1850s and 1860s.
died suddenly in 1868, an artist appreciated by his contemporaries for
the timeliness of his subject matter but lauded by later generations
for the clarity and precise execution of his canvases.
A special exhibition curated by Deborah Johnson and titled William Sidney Mount: Painter of American Life, was held in 1999 and organized by the Museums at Stony Brook, New York, and the American Federation of Arts.
Matthew Baigell, "Dictionary of American Art"
David Michael Zellman, "Three Hundred Years of American Art"
William Sidney Mount grew up on a farm in Setauket, Long Island, and
was the first American-born genre painter of significance to depict the
daily lives and tasks of the average citizen. He worked during a
time when other artists emulated the European academic tradition of
painting historical, religious, or literary scenes, yet Mount remained
steadfast and depicted rural American subjects in a realistic style.
Biography from Charleston Renaissance Gallery
Mount was influenced by the artwork of British genre artists Hogarth
and Wilkie, whose engravings were popular in the United States.
However, Mount's scenes are undoubtedly American in subject, such as Rustic Dance After a Sleigh Ride,
exhibited at the National Academy of Design. Mount's paintings
were popular among the growing number of newly rich collectors, many of
whom came from country towns such as those that Mount painted.
Mount's best-known patron was Luman Reed, who offered to pay for Mount
to study art in Europe. Mount declined "for fear I might be
induced by the splendor of European art to tarry too long, and thus
lose my nationality. We have nature, it speaks to every one and what
efforts I have made in art have been appreciated by my countrymen."
While a boy, Mount recalled that his curiosity with painting was piqued
when his younger sister Ruth began painting lessons at home. His
oldest brother Henry was the first member of the Mount family to make a
living as an artist, and William first trained as his apprentice.
From 1826 to 1827 Mount was among the first students to study art at
the National Academy of Design in New York City.
In 1829 Mount and another brother, Shepard set up a studio and painted
portraits. In 1830, he returned to Stony Brook, Long Island,
where he lived and painted for the remainder of his life. Mount's
success spread nationally and internationally with the reproduction of
his paintings into popular prints and later into color lithographs
published by the French firm, Goupil and Company. His paintings are
housed in numerous public collections, including The Metropolitan
Museum of Art, Corcoran Gallery of Art, National Gallery of Art,
Brooklyn Museum of Art, Art Institute of Chicago, and the Stony Brook
Museum of American Art.
Submitted by James Halperin, Co-Chairman Heritage Galleries and Auctioneers, Dallas, Texas
Through his choice of subjects and manner of execution, William Sidney
Mount created genre paintings that helped establish the aesthetic
vocabulary for nineteenth-century American genre painting. Born
at Setauket, Long Island, on 26 November 1807, Mount traveled little in
search of subjects. Instead, he mined the visual riches of his
locale and spent his whole life in the town of his birth.
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As a young man he worked as an apprentice for his brother Henry, a sign
painter and limner. An older brother, Shepard Alonzo Mount
(1804-1868), was also a painter, and he specialized in portraits.
William Sidney Mount studied painting with Henry Inman and was a member
of the inaugural class of the art school of the National Academy of
Mount's Rustic Dance after a Sleighride was exhibited at
the National Academy of Design in 1830 and achieved considerable
popularity. From that time until the end of his life, he painted
scenes of country life, men and women at work and recreation, and other
activities of his neighbors on Long Island.
Mount was one of the first Americans to depict African Americans in his
paintings. These sold well and he supplied American and European
markets with many works similar to his signature piece, The Banjo Player (1858), in the collection of the Suffolk County Museum.
An accomplished musician, Mount composed and published songbooks and
invented the "Cradle of Harmony" violin. Musical events and
performers like the banjo player were frequent subjects of his
William Sidney Mount died in his hometown, Setauket, Long Island, 19
November 1868. His paintings are found in the collections of the
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City; the Museum of Fine Arts,
Boston; the National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; and the Art
Institute of Chicago, and other major museums in the United States.
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