Mount, William Sidney

Mount, William Sidney,

1807–68, American genre and portrait painter, b. Setauket, N.Y. His childhood was spent at Stony Brook, Long Island, the scene of many of his pictures. At 17 he was apprenticed to his elder brother, Henry, a sign and ornament painter. Mount studied at the National Academy of Design for about a year (1826) and then began to support himself by portrait painting. His success in that field was only moderate. After 1836 he lived in Stony Brook, and there he painted the genre pictures for which he is noted. Horse trading, country dances, and farm scenes with landscape and figures are favorite subjects. Although Mount's anecdotal paintings of American blacks are now considered studies of stereotyped characters, he was the first important American master to portray blacks, and he portrayed them with sympathy. Executed with careful craftsmanship, his works convey a sense of liveliness and humor. Most of his paintings are in private collections, but many of them are known through lithographs and engravings. Raffling for the Goose and Long Island Farmhouses are in the Metropolitan Museum. The New-York Historical Society has several of Mount's works.


See study by J. Des Grange (1968).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia™ Copyright © 2013, Columbia University Press. Licensed from Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

Mount, William Sidney

(1807–68) painter; born in Setauket, Long Island, N.Y. A student at the National Academy of Design, New York (1826), he spent most of his life in Stony Brook, Long Island, and is considered the first established genre painter in America. A popular artist, he is currently acclaimed for his sensitive studies of black Americans, as in Eel Spearing at Setauket (1845) and The Banjo Player (1858).
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.