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The Long Island Museum Presents
Country Scenes for City Patrons:

Works by William Sidney Mount
Now through Labor Day

William Sidney Mount (1807-1868) quickly rose to prominence during the 1830s as America’s preeminent genre painter.  Mount’s patrons were particularly devoted to his depictions of rural life in America, and these works were repeatedly singled out by critics and zealously sought by collectors. 

At the peak of the Mount’s career, the desire for his scenes of country life reached such heights that the artist was frequently unable to keep up with the demand.  There were only two ways to purchase Mount’s artwork – at the annual exhibitions of the National Academy of Design in New York, where his paintings were regularly displayed, or through individual private commissions.

Mount’s patronage was unusual in its inclusion of both new-money and old-money clientele.  Collecting works of art was a means of establishing social status, and several of Mount’s self-made patrons, such as Luman Reed (1785-1836) and Jonathan Sturges (1802-1874), became some of the most important and influential cultural figures in New York through their collecting and philanthropy.

While Mount may have painted scenes of country life, his works were primarily purchased by city dwellers.  For many of these collectors who were born in the countryside but found success in the urban environment, Mount’s paintings appealed to nostalgic memories of their childhoods. 

Additionally, these works may have played to these men’s new-found sense of sophistication.  They might, for example, feel both superiority and empathy with regard to the country drunkard’s predicament in Loss and Gain (1847).  These shortcomings and deficiencies in Mount’s country folk were what contemporary critics and audiences found most evocative – amusing and profoundly moving at the same time.

Of the 8 paintings in this exhibit, six were commissioned by Mount’s city patrons.  None of them were commissioned or purchased by his Long Island neighbors.  Painted between 1831 and 1862, these works typify the subject matter for which Mount became famous.  Perhaps his audience was drawn to these country scenes because they shared with him nostalgia for a familiar past unalterably slipping away.

 

 

Located at 1200 Route 25A in Stony Brook, the Long Island Museum is a Smithsonian affiliate, dedicated to American history and art with a Long Island connection.  The museum is open Thursday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m and Sunday from noon to 5.  Regular admission is $9 per person, $7 for seniors and $4 for students ages six to 17.  Children under six and museum members are free.

For more information call 631-751-0066



 

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