Today’s selection is ‘Dancing on the Barn Floor’ by American genre painter William Sidney Mount. First and foremost, this work appeals to me for its jovial spirit as a couple are seen happily dancing in their humble setting. These two don’t need a grand ballroom or even a common tavern; a sturdy floor and a bit of music is all they require to get their groove on. While other folks take more favorable amenities for granted, this couple is making the most from what they have. You can have a rockin’ party anywhere—just stop complaining and use those resources available to you. That’s what this 19th century barn scene signifies to me.
Seriously, all they need is a disco ball hanging from those rafters, and maybe even have that violin player crank out some Donna Summer, and they’d be all set for a hot night!
Mount’s vantage point in ‘Dancing’ places a significant distance between us and our merry subjects, supplying a spacious view of the barn’s interior as well as the exterior wall to the left, thus allowing the environment to dominate the canvas, emphasizing its importance. I really like the use of empty space between both bright and shadowy areas, which together create a striking composition. Also, the wooden planks of the barn construct a geometric setting that stands in contrast to the loose, relaxed movement of the dancers.
I really enjoy the amount of detail in this painting too. The scene is full of subtle nuances, which seem as if they were first-hand observations by the artist, granting this piece a special authenticity. Though I’m sure Mount took some liberties with his art, ‘Dancing’ nonetheless feels like a genuine snapshot of early 19th century American life.
On an odd note, my mother owns an old magazine rack which features ‘Dancing on the Barn Floor’ on one side and ‘Dance of the Haymakers,’ another painting by Mount, on the other. Neat!
Details for 'Dancing on the Barn Floor' behind the cut.