Connected by the Power of Music

This portrait captures the shared humanity of blacks and whites in antebellum America.

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In The Power of Music, William Sidney Mount created a genuine mood of engagement with the viewer, extracting from his subjects a distilled sense of their common humanity. Bathed in the full light of day, the black man outside the barn takes on a dignified, timeless monumentality to become the true focus of the painting. Such subtlety of insight, unique in the antebellum period and rather ironic considering the artist's political views, would not be seen again until the powerful evocation of American blacks in a new situation by artists such as Eastman Johnson and Winslow Homer a generation later.

The Image of the Black in Western Art Archive resides at Harvard University's W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research. The director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute is Henry Louis Gates Jr., who is also The Root's editor-in-chief. The archive and Harvard University Press collaborated to create The Image of the Black in Western Art book series, eight volumes of which were edited by Gates and David Bindman and published by Harvard University Press. Text for each Image of the Week is written by Sheldon Cheek.

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