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Provenance

George Frank Stephens [1859-1935], the artist's brother-in-law;[1] Roger Stephens, the artist's nephew, by 20 December 1944;[2] (E. & A. Milch, Inc., New York); (M. Knoedler & Co., New York), 1960; sold 10 January 1961 to Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, Upperville, Virginia; gift 1985 to NGA.

Exhibition History
1961
Thomas Eakins: A Retrospective Exhibition, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; The Art Institute of Chicago; Philadelphia Museum of Art, 1961-1962, no. 30.
1968
American Art from Alumni Collections, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut, 1968, no. 97, repro.
1986
Gifts to the Nation: Selected Acquisitions from the Collections of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1986, unnumbered checklist
1991
Thomas Eakins Rediscovered, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, 1991-1992, no cat.
2003
The Birth of the Banjo, Katonah Museum of Art, New York, 2003-2004, unnumbered catalogue.
2005
Picturing the Banjo, The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.; Palmer Museum of Art, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park; The Boston Athenaeum, 2005-2006, unnumbered catalogue, fig. 99.
Bibliography
1933
Goodrich, Lloyd. Thomas Eakins: His Life and Work. New York, 1933: 172, no. 125.
1971
Hoopes, Donelson F. Eakins Watercolors. New York, 1971: 44, repro. 46.
1982
Goodrich, Lloyd. Thomas Eakins. 2 vols. Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1982: 1:repro. 110 (fig.47).
1988
Wilmerding, John. American Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art. Rev. ed. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1988: 130, repro.
1989
Honour, Hugh. The Image of the Black in Western Art. 4 vols. Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1989: 4:189.
1992
American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 166, repro.
1996
Kelly, Franklin, with Nicolai Cikovsky, Jr., Deborah Chotner, and John Davis. American Paintings of the Nineteenth Century, Part I. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1996: 167-172, color repro.
Technical Summary

The fabric support has been mounted to a five-ply wood pulp paperboard, but remnants of paper tape along the perimeter suggest that it was at one time on a stretcher. The white ground was covered with beige paint at the left and reddish brown on the right, upon which the figure and background were fluidly painted using a wet-into-wet technique. A grid was scored into the dry paint with a palette knife, leaving jagged edges in the more thickly painted passages. The painting is in good condition. The varnish has not discolored.