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Caught Napping (Boys Caught Napping in a Field)

William Sidney Mount

American Art

On View: American Identities: A New Look, Everyday Life/A Nation Divided, 5th Floor
Along with landscape paintings, "narrative" pictures—which offered a readable story—became immensely popular in the pre-Civil War era, as Americans began to fashion more images of themselves. William Sidney Mount, one of the leading painters of such works, completed this scene of lazy boys for the New Yorker George Washington Strong, for whom it represented a childhood memory. The theme of country boyhood subsequently became one of the most popular subjects for American narrative painters after the Civil War, when urban centers increasingly drew people away from their native rural environments. Unlike those later versions, which tended to be sentimentally sweet, Mount portrayed these boys as mischievous, with due punishment approaching in the form of their father. Mount's insertion of the goat's skull on the tree also signaled the considerable risks incurred by the neglect of their duties.
MEDIUM Oil on canvas
DATES 1848
DIMENSIONS 29 1/16 x 36 1/8 in. (73.8 x 91.7 cm)  (show scale)
SIGNATURE Signed lower left: "Wm. S. MONNT [sic] / 1848"
COLLECTIONS American Art
ACCESSION NUMBER 39.608
CREDIT LINE Dick S. Ramsay Fund
RIGHTS STATEMENT No known copyright restrictions
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CAPTION William Sidney Mount (American, 1807-1868). Caught Napping (Boys Caught Napping in a Field), 1848. Oil on canvas, 29 1/16 x 36 1/8 in. (73.8 x 91.7 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Dick S. Ramsay Fund, 39.608
IMAGE overall, 39.608_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
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RECORD COMPLETENESS Best (83%)
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