Opening Day – Perfect Harmony: The Musical Art & Life of William Sidney Mount
A new exhibition featuring the work of American genre painter William Sidney Mount (1807–1868) opens Saturday, May 25 at Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, New York.
Perfect Harmony: The Musical Art & Life of William Sidney Mount
May 25–September 8, 2019
Mount formed organic and everlasting bridges between his two chief passions in life—art and music. Perfect Harmony: The Musical Art & Life of William Sidney Mount sheds new light on the confluence of these creative worlds. The exhibition is on view through September 8, 2019. The museum presents a total of twelve exciting exhibitions this season featuring paintings, photographs, Native American art, and more.
Many famous artists integrated art and music in their lives, as Mount did. Henri Rousseau was a violinist. Wassily Kandinsky played both the piano and cello. John Singer Sargent accompanied ensembles as a pianist. Mount is also not unique in his depictions of dancers and musicians: many other painters, from one Mount emulated, the Scottish artist David Wilkie, to Pablo Picasso, explored this terrain.
However, few made the connection between these two enterprises as masterfully, seamlessly, or frequently as Mount did. In many ways, this blend was his destiny. He was the nephew of Micah Hawkins, one of New York’s most important early 19th-century composers. Mount described his father, Thomas, as “passionately fond of Music,” while his brother Robert was an itinerant dance master. Undoubtedly Mount also absorbed the interracial music culture of both New York City and Long Island’s North Shore. By the 1820s, the soundscape of African Americans and Scotch-Irish immigrants had merged, creating a potent cocktail of new American music.
Music takes center stage in a wide variety of the artist’s most famous paintings, including one of his earliest genre scenes, Dancing on the Barn Floor (1831). Later works included The Dance of the Haymakers (1845), Right and Left (1850), The Banjo Player (1856), and a host of others. These works reveal a meticulous concern with proper musical posturing.
Beyond providing subject matter, music gave Mount another serious outlet that he pursued as a country fiddler, a fife player, a collector of folk songs, and a violin designer. His experiences anticipate a 21st-century recognition of complex neurological connections among all of the arts. Mount assimilated these consuming passions, becoming, as his first biographer, Edward Buffet, described him, “a rustic Leonardo.”
This exhibition is sponsored in part by The Clark Foundation; The Tianaderrah Foundation; Mr. Tom Morgan and Ms. Erna J. Morgan McReynolds; Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Mahon.
Perfect Harmony: The Musical Art & Life of William Sidney Mount was organized by The Long Island Museum, Stony Brook, New York.
Enjoy related programs such as Food for Thought and themed musical performances. Visit FenimoreArt.org for more information. The museum is open daily this summer 10:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. Fall hours (October 15–December 31): 10:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday (closed Thanksgiving and Christmas Day). Admission: $12 for adults; $10.50 for seniors, and free for museum members and children (12 and under).
(Picture: The Banjo Player, 1856, William Sidney Mount, Oil on canvas. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Ward Melville, 1955. Long Island Museum.)