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All Talk and No Work

Francis William Edmonds

American Art

On View:
Francis William Edmonds’s All Talk and No Work features two figures, one white and one African American, who appear to be mid-conversation outside a barn. Although both wear tattered clothing and neither is engaged in productive work, unequal power dynamics are suggested. Leaning lazily on a pitchfork, the white farmer towers over the black figure, presumably his laborer, who holds an empty basket and gestures with his other hand.

This genre painting evokes the work of William Sidney Mount (represented nearby), whose farmyard subjects and anecdotal characterizations of yeomen and African Americans were highly popular with New York audiences. Edmonds’s treatment of the black figure is neither idealized in Mount’s manner nor caricatured as in works by other genre artists, but the painting’s enigmatic visual clues might be interpreted as an attempt to justify or obscure the racism of the era.
MEDIUM Oil on canvas
DATES 1855–1856
DIMENSIONS 24 1/16 × 19 13/16 in. (61.1 × 50.3 cm) frame: 28 × 24 1/4 × 3 in. (71.1 × 61.6 × 7.6 cm)  (show scale)
SIGNATURE Signed lower left: "FWE"
CREDIT LINE Carll H. de Silver Fund
MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
CAPTION Francis William Edmonds (American, 1806–1863). All Talk and No Work, 1855–1856. Oil on canvas, 24 1/16 × 19 13/16 in. (61.1 × 50.3 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Carll H. de Silver Fund, 51.108 (Photo: Brooklyn Museum, 51.108_SL1.jpg)
IMAGE overall, 51.108_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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RIGHTS STATEMENT No known copyright restrictions
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