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Bar-room Scene – William Sidney Mount

Bar-room Scene - William Sidney Mount

Bar-room Scene – William Sidney Mount

William Sidney Mount specialised 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 humour 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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