Set in rural Long Island before the Civil War, this scene of an African American laborer eavesdropping on a fiddle tune suggests the divisive race relations in America at the time. While a love of music connects the men and acknowledges their common humanity, they nevertheless occupy different spaces. The barn door that separates the laborer likely serves as a symbolic reminder that he lacked the political rights and social privileges of the group of white men inside.
New York, National Academy, Annual Exhibition (1847), no. 158, (as The Force of Music).
New York, Art Union Gallery, The Washington Exhibition in Aid of the New York Gallery of the Fine Arts (1853), no. 100.
New York, Crystal Palace, Exhibition of the Industry of All Nations in the Picture Gallery of the Crystal Palace (1853), no. 212.
New York, Metropolitan Fair, U.S. Sanitary Commission (1864).
Chicago, The Art Palace, World's Columbian Exposition: Retrospective Exhibit of American Painting (1893), no 161.
New York, National Academy of Design, Centennial Exhibition 1825 - 1925 (October 1925 - January 1926), no. 76; traveled to Washington, Corcoran Gallery; traveled to New York, Grand Central Art Galleries, Inc.
New York, Whitney Museum of American Art, American Genre: The Social Scene in Painting and Prints (March - April 1935), no. 76.
New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Life in America (1939), no.110.
Brooklyn, Brooklyn Museum of Art, Exhibition of Drawings and Paintings by William Sidney Mount 1807 - 1868 (January - March 1942), no. 64.
Stony Brook, Long Island, Suffolk Museum at Stony Brook, A Loan Exhibition of Paintings, Sketches, Manuscripts, Memorabilia (of the Mount Family) (1947), no. 64.
Pittsburgh, Museum of Art, Carnegie Institute, American Classics of the Nineteenth Century (October - December 1957), no. 18.
New York, American Federation of the Arts, A Hundred Years Ago (November 1958 - November 1959), no. 28.
Brunswick, Maine, Bowdoin College Museum of Art, The Portrayal of the Negro in American Painting (1964), no. 29.
New York, Finch College Art Museum, Twice as Natural: 19th Century American Genre (1974), no. 60.
Cleveland, Cleveland Museum of Art, Selected Acquisitions (January 28 - April 26 1992), p. 76, no. 8.
New York, The New York Historical Society, William Sidney Mount: American Genre Painter (August 14 - October 25, 1998); traveled to Pittsburgh, PA, Frick Art and Historical Society (November 20 - January 10, 1999); traveled to Fort Worth, TX, Amon Carter Museum (February 5 - April 4, 1999).
NY, NY: The New York Historical Society (8/14-10/25/98); Pittsburgh, PA: Frick Art and Historical Society (11/20/98 - 1/10/99); Fort Wort, TX: Amon Carter Museum (2/5-4/4/99) "William Sidney Mount: American Genre Painter".
Metropolitan Museum of Art (10/5/2009 - 1/24/2010) and LACMA (2/28/2010 - 5/23/2010): "American Stories: Paintings of Everyday Life 1765-1915"
|1847-||Laura (Mrs. Gideon) Lee [1800-1870], Geneva, NY, to her son-in-law, Charles M. Leupp1|
|-1859||Charles M. Leupp [1807-1859], New York, NY2|
|1859-1870||Mrs. Gideon Lee [d. 1870], Geneva, NY, probably by descent to her stepson, Gideon Lee, Jr.3|
|1870-1880||Gideon Lee, Jr. [1824-1894], Carmel, NY?|
|1880-1990||The Century Association, New York, NY4|
|1990-1991||(James H. Maroney, Jr., Leicester, VT, and Christie's, New York, NY, sold to the Cleveland Museum of Art)|
|1991-||The Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, Ohio|
1Although the painting was ostensibly commissioned by Laura Lee, wife of Gideon Lee, a former mayor of New York City, Leupp, her son-in-law, seems to have controlled the commission.
2The circumstances surrounding Leupp's acquisition of this painting, as well as its return to Mrs. Lee, his mother-in-law, after his death are unclear. Leupp,a founder of The Century Association, greatly admired the painting; Mount recalled that in the spring of 1847 Leupp "stood a long time looking at it until I began to think I had made a failure and observed to him, ‘If you think this picture will not suit Mrs. Lee, I will paint her another with pleasure.’ ‘Why man,’ he said, ‘I only wish the picture belonged to me.’” By at least 1856, the painting did go to Leupp; in that year The Crayon listed it as part of his collection.
3After Charles Leupp's death in 1859, the painting was returned to Mrs. Lee.
4The Board of Management meeting minutes from January 8, 1881 confirm that the Century Association purchased the painting in 1880 for $500. Because there are no extant financial records or sales receipts from that time period in the Century Association's archives, the identity of the seller is not recorded. However, it can reasonably be assumed that it was Gideon Lee, Jr., as he was a member of the club and no additional names have been associated with this provenance.
Board of Management Minutes, Jan. 8, 1881, Century Association Archives, New York, NY.
Bruce Robertson, “’The Power of Music’: A Painting by William Sidney Mount,” The Bulletin of the Cleveland Museum of Art 79.2 (Feb. 1992): 38-62.
James Maroney acting for Christie’s, CMA expect notice, Aug. 9, 1991, in CMA curatorial file.
James T. Callow, “American Art in the Collection of Charles M. Leupp,” Antiques (Nov. 1980): 998-1007.
The Century Association. 1991. The Century Yearbook. New York: The Century Association.