Richard Caton Woodville (1825–1855)
Scene in a Bar-Room, 1845
Oil on panel, 8 1/2 x 6 3/4 in.
Signed and dated lower right: R C W / 1845
Provenance: the artist; Abraham M. Cozzens, New York, by April 1845; Van Allen, from 1868; Kennedy Galleries, New York, by 1982; private collection; Alexander Gallery, New York; Godel & Co., New York; Berry-Hill Galleries, New York; private collection, until 2006
Exhibited: National Academy of Design, New York, Twentieth Annual Exhibition, 1845, no. 361; Samuel P. Avery’s, New York, 1867; Clinton Hall Art Gallery, Leavitt, Stebeigh & Company, New York, 1868; Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, Maryland (March 20-June 2, 2013) and The Mint Museum, Charlotte North Carolina (June 30-November 3, 2013), New Eyes on America: The Genius of Richard Caton Woodville (cat. no. 2, 87, illustrated).
Literature: “Sketchings. Our Private Collections, No. III,” The Crayon 3 (April 1856): 123 (as The Tough Story); Henry T. Tuckerman, Book of the Artists: American Artist Life Comprising Biographical and Critical Sketches of American Artists (1867; reprint, New York: James F. Carr, 1967), 408, 410 (as Bar-Room Interior); “Fine Arts. Richard Caton Woodville,” New-York Daily Tribune, January 22, 1867, 2; Catalogue of the Entire Collection of Paintings Belonging to the Late Mr. A. M. Cozzens (New York: Leavitt, Strebeigh & Company, 1868): no. 5 (as The Smokers [Bar-Room Interior]); “Clinton Gallery and Art,” The Evening Post [New York], May 16, 1868, 2; Copy of a letter from William Woodville V to William Pennington, June 13, 1879, Pennington Papers MS, Maryland Historical Society; Frank Jewett Mather, Jr., Charles Rufas Morey, William James Henderson, The American Spirit in Art (New Haven, 1927), 37; Frederic F. Sherman, Early American Painting (New York and London: The Century Co., 1932), 272; Mary Bartlett Cowdrey, “Richard Caton Woodville, An American Genre Painter,” American Collector 13 (April 1944): 7; Eliot Clark, History of the National Academy of Design (New York: Columbia University Press, 1954), 54-55; Elizabeth H. Payne, “America at Leisure in the 1840s,” Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Art 35 (1955-1956), 13; James Thomas Flexner, That Wilder Image (Boston: Little, Brown, & Company, 1962), 139; Francis S. Grubar, “Richard Caton Woodville’s Waiting for the Stage,” The Corcoran Bulletin 13 (October 1963): 12; Francis Stanley Grubar, “Richard Caton Woodville: An American Artist, 1825 to 1855,” Ph.D. dissertation, The Johns Hopkins University, 1966, 27-30, 32, 220-222; Francis S. Grubar, “Richard Caton Woodville 1825-1855,” essay in Richard Caton Woodville: an early American Genre Painter (Washington, D.C.: The Corcoran Gallery of Art, 1967); Henry Nichols Blake Clark, “The Impact of Seventeenth-Century Dutch and Flemish Genre Painting on American Genre Painting, 1800-1865,” University of Delaware, 1982, 234-235, 381, fig. 119; Gerald Carr, entry on The Card Players, in American Paintings in the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit: Detroit Institute of Arts, 1997), 2:254; Justin Wolff, “Soldiers, Sharps, and Shells: Richard Caton Woodville and Antebellum Genre Painting,” Ph.D. dissertation, Princeton University, 1999, 133-135, 138-141, 151, 168, 364 (illustrated); Bruce Weber, American Paintings IX (New York: Berry-Hill Galleries, Inc., 2001) 12-13 (illustrated); Justin Wolff, Richard Caton Woodville: American Painter, Artful Dodger (Princeton, N.J. and Oxford, England: Princeton University Press, 2002), 16, 18, 19-22, 50, 77, 177n. 9, 195, fig. 1 (as Two Figures at a Stove).
Scene in a Bar-Room is Woodville’s first painting of note. In his detailed study of Woodville, Justin Wolff wrote that Scene in a Bar-Room is loosely inspired by William Sidney Mount’s The Tough Story, 1837 (National Gallery of Art, Corcoran Collection), which Woodville likely saw firsthand in the collection of the Baltimore aesthete Robert Gilmor, Jr. Woodville and other aspiring artists were permitted access to Gilmor’s collection, which included American paintings by the likes of Mount and Thomas Cole, as well as works by Dutch, Flemish, and English genre artists such as Jan Brueghel, David Teniers the Younger, and Sir David Wilkie. These masterpieces undoubtedly influenced Woodville’s choice of subject and style.
Painted in the spirit of Teniers, Scene in a Bar-Room is a small, unassuming composition that shows two ruddy-nosed men seated in a bar as they warm themselves by a stove. The men seem to be regulars at the bar; they both appear weary, despondent, and isolated from each other and their dingy surroundings, which include a chair with a broken back and a scattering of earthenware jugs. The man on the right gazes out at the viewer as he takes a drag on his pipe and wisps of smoke emerge from his mouth. His companion, who dons a poorly patched overcoat, stretches his hands out over the heated stovetop.
Although Scene in a Bar-Room is of humble size and subject, the painting is nonetheless one of particular importance in Woodville’s brief career. It was the first painting he exhibited at the National Academy of Design in New York in 1845, and was purchased by Abraham M. Cozzens, a prominent collector and member of the executive committee of the American Art-Union. More than twenty years after it was painted, Henry Tuckerman mentioned the painting’s significance in his Book of the Artists:
[Woodville] was first known to the American public as a painter, by a little picture of very humble pretensions as regards subject, but bearing indications of decided executive ability. It was the interior of a bar-room with two vulgar habitués seated therein…The immediate sale, however, of his first attempt seemed to justify the vocation…Woodville soon went to Germany, and studied at Düsseldorf…
 Justin Wolff, Richard Caton Woodville: American Painter, Artful Dodger (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2002), 42.
 Henry T. Tuckerman, Book of the Artists (1867; reprint, New York: James F. Carr, 1967), 408.