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Bar-room Scene

Bar-room Scene

William Sidney Mount

An item at Art Institute of Chicago

William Sidney Mount specialized in scenes of everyday life, known as genre paintings. He was one of the earliest American artists to do so, and his compositions, including Bar-room Scene, were rich in narrative and humor and engaged with the complex cultural, political, and racial circumstances that defined antebellum society. Here Mount portrayed a boisterous group of patrons in a country tavern. The seated men encourage the drunken dance of the central figure, whose tattered clothes and inebriated state suggest a less fortunate position. Standing in the back corner is an African American figure, who, as a free black man in 1830s New York, was able to frequent the public tavern, but, as Mount makes clear visually, did not participate fully or equally in this community.

Americas in the Making

An exhibit at Art Institute of Chicago

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These galleries present dynamic and wide-ranging art forms made in the Americas, where artists have been at work since time immemorial. The region now known as Chicago has long been a vibrant center of Native artistic practices, including those of Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi nations. European settler colonialism and the development of the metropolis-including our museum's founding in 1879-introduced global art forms. Together, these local histories shape the collections we steward today, which encompass diverse makers, objects, and styles spanning centuries and continents, from North to South America and the Caribbean. The works here offer layered stories of the Americas in the making. Created for a variety of purposes-from aesthetic to ceremonial to practical —they have the power to evoke a range of emotions and responses. Complex factors impacted their making, including displacement and immigration, enslavement, global trade, and indus-trialization. As a result, they offer insights across eras while inviting reinterpretation in our moment. Just as artistic traditions are continually made and remade, so, too, are our efforts to present them. Today you can find selections of the many histories of art in the Americas on this floor and the floor above, in tandem with Gallery 136, a dedicated space for celebrating Indigenous art.