Saturday, February 28, 2009

Featured Pipe Smoker: William Mount

William Sidney Mount (1807-1868)

This painting, California News, by William Mount includes a self portrait. The artist has portrayed himself in the right foreground with a clay pipe in his hand. This scene depicts Mount and other tavern patrons checking the newspapers for news of the California gold fields.

Mount grew up on a farm on Long Island. During a time when other artists preferred to emulate the European academic tradition of painting historical, religious, or literary scenes, Mount chose rather to depict rural American subjects in a realistic style. He became apprenticed to his older brother, who was already an artist and who had a sign-painting shop in New York City, after their father died when William was only 7.

Mount was once offered the opportunity to study art in Europe, but 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."

William Mount was one of the first American artists to portray African Americans in his paintings "
with dignity although he opposed abolition of slavery."

He was also an inventor and an accomplished musician. He invented
a steamboat paddle wheel, a two-hulled sailboat, a painting studio on wheels and a hollow back violin named the "Cradle of Harmony." He was also admired for his skill as a country fiddler, and was a composer and collector of songs as well, publishing several songbooks.

William Mount biographical info from
Information on the Cradle of Harmony violin at HistoryWired.

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