William Sidney Mount was born on November 26, 1807 in Setauket, New York. He was apprenticed as a sign painter in 1825 to his brother, Henry Mount (1802-1841), in New York City, but the next year, frustrated by the limitations of sign painting, he enrolled for drawing classes at the newly established National Academy of Design, where he aspired to be a painter of historical subjects. His first efforts in painting were portraits, after which he did paint some historical scenes. In 1827 he returned to live on Long Island, and from then onwards he alternated between the city and the country. He began making the yeomen of Long Island his subject-matter, perhaps inspired by the popularity ofengravings after David Wilkie and 17th century genre painters, and became America's first major genre painter, executing primarily rural scenes. His paintings were rooted in witty national self-criticism and popular expression, and many of his works were engraved, giving them wide publicity. Mount received commissions from the most influential patrons in New York City, and he was a favorite of the newspaper and journal critics, who held him up as a model. He was extraordinarily self-conscious about painting methods, and kept journals in which he recorded experiments with pigments and brushes. He sketched extensively in notebooks and painted plein-air oil sketches for several works, devising a studio-wagon in which he travelled over Long Island. Mount never married, and died in Setauket on November 18, 1868. [Compiled from sources and references recorded on CMS]
Turner, Jane, ed.
The Dictionary of Art. 34 vols. New York and London, 1996: 222-224.