'Perfect Harmony' to open at Fenimore Art Museum

Fenimore Art MuseumWilliam Sidney Mount, 'The Banjo Player,' 1856, oil on canvas. The Long Island Museum.

A exhibit featuring the work of 19th-century American genre painter William Sidney Mount will open Saturday, May 25, at Fenimore Art Museum.

“Perfect Harmony: The Musical Art & Life of William Sidney Mount” sheds light on the confluence art and music, presenters said in a media release. The exhibit, one of a dozen to be on display at the Cooperstown-area museum, will be on view through Sept. 8. 

Many famous artists integrated art and music in their lives, as Mount did, according to the release. Henri Rousseau was a violinist. Wassily Kandinsky played 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, 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,” the release said. “In many ways, this blend was his destiny.”

He was the nephew of Micah Hawkins, a 19th-century composer. Mount described his father, Thomas, as “passionately fond of music,” while his brother Robert was an itinerant dance master.

Music takes center stage in a 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), and “The Banjo Player” (1856).

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. Mount assimilated these passions, becoming, as his first biographer, Edward Buffet, described him, “a rustic Leonardo,” the release said.

“Perfect Harmony: The Musical Art & Life of William Sidney Mount” was organized by The Long Island Museum in Stony Brook.

There will be related programs such as Food for Thought and themed musical performances. For more information, visit  FenimoreArt.org for more information. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through Oct. 15, with reduced hours after that through the end of the year. Admission is $12 for adults, $10.50 for seniors, and free for museum members and children 12 and younger.

The Fenimore Art Museum is at 5798 State Highway 80 just outside of Cooperstown.