Officials from The Butler Institute of American Art
have announced that the museum has acquired a master work by American painter James Longacre Wood (c. 1863-1938) titled Mumble the Peg. Painted in 1892, a full twenty years after Winslow Homer (1836-1910) painted Snap the Whip. (Homers famed genre work of boys playing outside a one-room school house, is an iconic painting that has been the centerpiece of the Butlers collection since the Institutes founding in 1919.) Mumble the Peg was previously owned by the late Sherman Lee (1918-2008), longtime director of The Cleveland Museum of Art (Ohio).
According to Butler Director and Chief Curator, Dr. Louis Zona, This painting is a most wonderful addition the museums prestigious collection. It is a complement to Snap the Whip, painted in 1872 before Woods painting, and both works are great examples of American 19th Century genre painting. Both parallel the writings of the period by American master, author Mark Twain (1835-1910).
Mumble the Peg depicts three young boys engaged in the popular pastime of tossing a jack knife so that its blade sticks firmly in the ground. At the left, a boy with jack knife in hand, takes his turn while the others watch intently. The informality and naturalness of their poses reveals the influence of Woods mentor, Thomas Eakins (1844-1916).
James Longacre Wood was best-known as a genre and portrait painter. (The term genre is used to describe works that represent ordinary people engaged in everyday activities.) He studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and later the Art Students League of Pennsylvania. In 1887, he arrived in Paris where he was a student of Jean-Léon Gérome at the École des Beaux-Arts. Upon his return to America, he became an instructor at the Drexel Institute, where he remained until 1905. His work was included in exhibitions of note, including those at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and at the Art Institute of Chicago. Wood died in Philadelphia in 1938.
Mumble the Peg was purchased by the Butler Institute with funds earmarked for the acquisition of historic art works, donated by the late Max Draime and Cecile M. Draime in 1997. The work will be installed in the Butlers Cushwa Gallery, near other works of the era including Homers Snap the Whip.