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.
lower left: J. G. Brown N.A. / N.Y. 1879
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.
- Century Association, New York, 10 January 1880, no catalogue, as Noon on the Docks.
- Fifty-fifth Annual Exhibition, National Academy of Design, New York, 30 March - 29 May 1880, no. 377.
- Williams & Everett Gallery, Boston, February - March 1880, no catalogue, as Longshoremen Nooning
- 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.
- American Paintings from the William T. Evans Collection, Frederick Loeser & Co., Brooklyn, c. May 1898.
- American Paintings belonging to William T. Evans, American Art Galleries, New York, 24 January - 2 February 1900, no. 175.
- American Genre: The Social Scene in Paintings & Prints, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 26 March - 29 April 1935, no. 14.
- American Life in a Century of American Art, Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, November 1935, no. 8.
- An Exhibition of American Genre Paintings, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, 13 February - 26 March 1936, no. 16.
- 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.
- 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.
- Man at Work, Denver Art Museum, 2 March - 27 April 1952, no checklist.
- Paintings of New York, Museum of the City of New York, 15 April - 8 September 1958, no catalogue.
- Past and Present: 250 Years of American Art, Corcoran Gallery of Art, 15 April - 30 September 1966, unpublished checklist.
- 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.
- Corcoran [The American Genius], Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 24 January - 4 April 1976, no checklist
- 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.
- From Brooklyn to the Sea: Seafarers and New York Harbor, Museum of the Borough of Brooklyn at Brooklyn College, 16 October - 4 December 1985.
- 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.
- Paris 1889: American Artists at the Universal Exposition, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia, 26 January - 15 April 1990, no. 37.
- 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.
- Figuratively Speaking: The Human Form in American Art, 1770-1950, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 20 November 2004 - 7 August 2005, unpublished checklist.
- 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.
- The American Evolution: A History through Art, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 1 March - 27 July 2008, unpublished checklist.
- American Paintings from the Collection, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 6 June-18 October 2009, unpublished checklist.
- American Journeys: Visions of Place, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 21 September 2013-28 September 2014, unpublished checklist.
- Hoppin, Martha. The World of J.G. Brown. Chesterfield, Massachusetts, 2010: 124 fig. 6-1, 125-129, 130-131 detail, 132-133, 151, 169, 181, 192, 195, 237 n. 56, 246.
- 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.