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Overview

The Longshoremen's Noon represents a casual gathering of longshoremen—men who labor "along shore"—on a busy Hudson River wharf. It is one of John George Brown's most celebrated scenes of urban life. Brown's careful rendering of dockworkers engaged in casual conversation emphasizes their social relationships rather than the drudgery of their labor, and seemingly builds a sense of humanity within the painting.

Part of the artist's sensitive treatment of this subject stems from his own biography. Brown had roots in the working-class community, having labored as a craftsman before becoming a professional artist. In the late 19th century, the longshoremen were a well-organized and active labor group. The prominent position of the Sun newspaper at the center of the composition suggests that the dockworkers' noontime conversation concerns current events, even union strikes, which were common at the time. However, Brown's painting is less about the harsh realities of life on the docks, and serves instead as a poignant representation of the character and community built by the people who worked there.

Inscription

lower left: J. G. Brown N.A. / N.Y. 1879

Provenance

William T. Evans [1843-1918], by 1886; (American Art Galleries, New York); sold 1900 to the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington; acquired 2014 by the National Gallery of Art.

Exhibition History
1880
Century Association, New York, 10 January 1880, no catalogue, as Noon on the Docks.
1880
Fifty-fifth Annual Exhibition, National Academy of Design, New York, 30 March - 29 May 1880, no. 377.
1880
Williams & Everett Gallery, Boston, February - March 1880, no catalogue, as Longshoremen Nooning
1889
Exposition Universell Internationale, Palais du Champ de Mars, Paris, 5 May - 5 November 1889, Etats-Unis, no. 37, as Le repos du portefaix, à midi.
1898
American Paintings from the William T. Evans Collection, Frederick Loeser & Co., Brooklyn, c. May 1898.
1900
American Paintings belonging to William T. Evans, American Art Galleries, New York, 24 January - 2 February 1900, no. 175.
1935
American Genre: The Social Scene in Paintings & Prints, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 26 March - 29 April 1935, no. 14.
1935
American Life in a Century of American Art, Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, November 1935, no. 8.
1936
An Exhibition of American Genre Paintings, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, 13 February - 26 March 1936, no. 16.
1939
Life in America: A Special Loan Exhibition of Paintings Held During the Period of the New York World's Fair, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 24 April - 29 October 1929, no. 269.
1949
De Gustibus: An Exhibition of American Paintings Illustrating a Century of Taste and Criticism, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 9 January - 20 February 1949, no. 23.
1952
Man at Work, Denver Art Museum, 2 March - 27 April 1952, no checklist.
1958
Paintings of New York, Museum of the City of New York, 15 April - 8 September 1958, no catalogue.
1966
Past and Present: 250 Years of American Art, Corcoran Gallery of Art, 15 April - 30 September 1966, unpublished checklist.
1970
The American Scene 1820-1900: An Exhibition of Landscape and Outdoor Genre Held in Honor of the Sesquicentennial of Indiana University, Indiana University Art Museum, Bloomington, 18 January - 28 February 1970, no. 93.
1976
Corcoran [The American Genius], Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 24 January - 4 April 1976, no checklist
1981
Of Time and Place: American Figurative Art from the Corcoran Gallery, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington; Cincinnati Art Museum; San Diego Museum of Art; University of Kentucky Art Museum, Lexington; Hunter Museum of Art, Chattanooga; Philbrook Art Center, Tulsa; Portland Art Museum, Oregon; Des Moines Art Center; Museum of Fine Arts, St. Petersburg, Florida, 1981-1983, no. 19.
1985
From Brooklyn to the Sea: Seafarers and New York Harbor, Museum of the Borough of Brooklyn at Brooklyn College, 16 October - 4 December 1985.
1989
Country Paths and City Sidewalks: The Art of J.G. Brown, George Walter Vincent Smith Art Museum, Springfield, Massachusetts; National Academy of Design, New York; Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, 1989, no. 25.
1990
Paris 1889: American Artists at the Universal Exposition, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, 26 January - 15 April 1990, no. 37.
1995
Redefining Genre: French and American Painting, 1850-1900, Dixon Gallery and Gardens, Memphis; Santa Barbara Museum of Art; Meridian International Center, Washington, 1995-1996, no. 18.
2004
Figuratively Speaking: The Human Form in American Art, 1770-1950, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 20 November 2004 - 7 August 2005, unpublished checklist.
2005
Encouraging American Genius: Master Paintings from the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, NY; Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte; John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, 2005-2007, checklist no. 44.
2008
The American Evolution: A History through Art, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 1 March - 27 July 2008, unpublished checklist.
2009
American Paintings from the Collection, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 6 June-18 October 2009, unpublished checklist.
2013
American Journeys: Visions of Place, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 21 September 2013-28 September 2014, unpublished checklist.
Bibliography
2011
Shapiro, Emily Dana. "John George Brown, The Longshoremen's Noon." In Corcoran Gallery of Art: American Paintings to 1945. Edited by Sarah Cash. Washington, 2011:146-147, 268-269, repro.