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May 2006

William Sidney Mount's The Power of Music

Arch Facial Plast Surg. 2006;8(3):228-229. doi:10.1001/archfaci.8.3.228

William Sidney Mount is generally hailed as America's first genre painter, and his scenes of rural life in his native Long Island, New York, evoke the simpler pleasures of a bygone age. He was born in Setauket, Long Island, in 1807 and began his artistic training at the age of 17 years, working as an apprentice to his elder brother, who was a sign painter in New York City. In 1826, the young Mount enrolled at the National Academy of Design to study historical painting, although when he returned to Long Island the following year, he chiefly worked as a portraitist before turning to the bucolic genre scenes that made him famous. An ardent Democrat, Mount infused his genre paintings of farmers bargaining, black musicians, and country dances with subtle satires on political issues of the day. Although his agents in New York City offered to finance a trip to Europe to study the great masters, he preferred to remain in Long Island and paint rustic genre scenes of rural life. Mount never married and lived the rest of his life in Stonybrook, Long Island, and New York City until his death in 1868.