John George Brown
1831-1913 | British-American
He Won't Bite
Signed and dated "Copyright 1909 / J.G. Brown N.A." (lower left)
Oil on canvas
A young shoeshine boy and his best friend, an adorable mutt, are the subjects of this oil on canvas by John George Brown, one of the most successful genre painters of the late 19th century. The artist possessed a particular talent for capturing the innocent personalities of his young subjects, most of whom were among the working class. His paintings of fine-natured, wholesome children of urban America were immensely popular in their day, delighting the public and critics alike. This pair, with their friendly, inquisitive faces, is a quintessential example of the subjects that made him so successful.
Born in Durham, England, in 1831, Brown knew early in life that he wanted to be a painter. His parents, however, had other plans, apprenticing him to a glass cutter when he was just 14 years old. Undaunted, Brown studied art at night, and at the age of 22 he immigrated to the United States, hoping to make a better life for himself. He found a job at a glassworks in New York, and, in 1855, just two years after arriving, he married the owner’s daughter. Recognizing the young artist’s undeniable talent, Brown’s father-in-law provided the financial assistance needed for him to pursue painting as a full-time career.
Brown quickly endeared himself to Americans, becoming the most popular genre painter of his time. While affluent collectors bought his paintings, lithographic reproductions were also available, enhancing both Brown’s popularity and financial success. Brown also served as an influential instructor at the National Academy of Design. Today his work is acclaimed for its poignant realism and its social commentary on a child’s life on the city streets of Victorian America.
Canvas: 24" high x 17" wide
Frame: 32 3/8" high x 25 1/4" wide