The True American

Enoch Wood Perry American

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 758

Perry painted this oil in preparation for a widely distributed chromolithograph that uses humor to mock the impossible ideal of national unity. The True American, also titled The Bummers (meaning a bum or vagrant), implies that the subjects of the painting are coarse, non-thinking citizens. The cropped sign above the door reads "The National Hotel." The mindless male figures, one of whom reads the newspaper "The True American," present only their backsides, with heads concealed, as does the depicted horse at left, and the dog at right. In these terms, the artist comments on the willful ignorance of the voting population in the United States during the Reconstruction era.

The True American, Enoch Wood Perry (1831–1915), Oil on canvas, American

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