Jerome Thompson (1814–1886)
The Rustic Chat, 1850
Oil on canvas, 25 x 30 in.
Signed and dated lower left: Jerome Thompson 1850
Provenance: Kirby, Carrington & Co., New York, 1850; private collection, Connecticut; Alexander Gallery, New York, 1980; Berry-Hill Galleries, New York; a corporate collection, until 2010
Exhibited: American Art-Union, New York, 1850, no. 242.
Literature: Lee M. Edwards, “Early Jerome Thompson Genre Painting,” in “New Discoveries in American Art,” American Art Journal 14, no. 2 (Spring 1982), 72-73 (illustrated); Edwards, “The Life and Career of Jerome Thompson,” American Art Journal 14, no. 4 (Autumn 1982), 8 (illustrated), 12; John Caldwell and Oswaldo Rodriguez Roque, American Paintings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, vol. 1 (New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 1994), 582-83; Teresa A. Carbone et al., American Paintings in the Brooklyn Museum, vol. 2 (New York: Brooklyn Museum, 2006), 1001.
In The Rustic Chat, a young man speaks pleasantly with a young woman in front of a barn. He has come a fair distance, judging from the panting dog at his feet, and has removed the saddle and bridle from his horse, since he intends to stay a while. The lady has gathered hay in her skirt, which she feeds to the horse as she strokes his head. Chickens peck and strut nearby, and barn swallows fly to and from their roost above.
The painting can be seen as a twist on William Sidney Mount’s well-known conversation piece Bargaining for a Horse, 1835 (New-York Historical Society), in which two farmers stand outside of a barn negotiating the sale of the horse that stands behind them. For Thompson’s young woman and her suitor, the horse that he rides and she feeds represents the household to which both would contribute in a future marriage—on which they appear close to making a deal.