The Darktown Hunt--Presents the Brush: "You done better keep it Kurnel to polish you cheek."

Publisher Currier & Ives American

Not on view

The late nineteenth-century Darktown prints by Currier & Ives depict racist stereotypes that are offensive and disturbing. The Metropolitan Museum of Art preserves such works to shed light on their historical context and to enable the study and evaluation of racism.

This aftermath of a country fox hunt shows caricatured Black (African American) people dressed in hunting attire. The hunt master (shown from behind with a split back seam of his red swallow-tail coat exposing his shirt and green suspenders) is astride his exhausted, dripping gray-white horse. He presents the bristle brush prize to a woman mounted on an exhausted, dripping brown horse. Wearing a green riding habit (jacket and skirt) and white top hat, she coyly places the tip of her crop to her chin. Near them, four beagles collapse with exhaustion. The pair of horseback riders and the dogs have all raced to be the first to reach the end of the course. In the left background, a woman hangs from a tree branch as the donkey she was riding runs ahead without her. Other riders are sketchily conveyed in the distance behind. The surrounding countryside vegetation is green, beneath a very pale blue sky. The title, and the caption (said by the woman to the hunt master) are imprinted in the bottom margin.

Nathaniel Currier, whose successful New York-based lithography firm began in 1835, produced thousands of prints in various sizes that together create a vivid panorama of mid-to-late nineteenth century American life and its history. People eagerly acquired such lithographs featuring picturesque scenery, rural and city views, ships, railroads, portraits, hunting and fishing scenes, domestic life and numerous other subjects, as an inexpensive way to decorate their homes or business establishments. As the firm expanded, Nathaniel included his younger brother Charles in the business. In 1857, James Merritt Ives (the firm's accountant since 1852 and Charles's brother-in-law) was made a business partner; subsequently renamed Currier & Ives, the firm continued until 1907.

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