William Penn Morgan (1826-1900)

William Penn Morgan (1826-1900). Oil on canvas measures 14 x 18 inches; 17 x 20 inches framed. Signed lower left. One small area of repair from canvas puncture en verso.

Two figures sit quietly on the porch of Mammy’s shack. The composition suggests intimacy, but both women are fully engaged in their separate activity: one physical and one cerebral. While the young girl is literate, her Mammy probably is not: a circumstance that certainly was not lost on viewers of this painting in it’s time. Some would have found this situation reassuring; others would have found it lamentable. There is a cool ambiguity communicated here by the artist, and there is no easy way to interpret the piece. 



Birth place: London, England

Death place: NYC

Addresses: Brooklyn in 1851; active in NYC for most of his career

Profession: Portrait, genre, figurative painter

Studied: NAD, 1851; Le Havre, France

Exhibited: NAD, 1852-1900; Brooklyn AA, 1875-84; PAFA Ann., 1885, 1888

Member: ANA, 1862; Artists Fund Soc.

Work: Peabody Institute, Baltimore, MD

Comments: Specialized in domestic genre scenes.

Sources: G&W; Art Annual, IV, obit.; CAB (birth date as 1826); Clement and Hutton; Who’s Who in America, 1899-1900 (birth date as 1830); Cowdrey, NAD (birth date as 1826); Naylor, NAD (birth date as 1828, gives full name as William Penn Morgan); Brooklyn CD 1851; NYCD 1855+. Falk, Exh. Record Series.