John George Brown
This piece by Brown (always referred to as “J. G. Brown”) ranks among my favorite paintings in the collection and is my wife’s favorite piece of all. This masterpiece of post–Civil War African-American genre subject matter, dated 1879, eclipses the majority of Brown’s work, showing he could rank with Homer and Eastman Johnson and—had he not become so repetitious with his shoeshine boys—would have. At the time I discovered this piece in 1972, I had cultivated access to the vast Kennedy Gallery racks and discovered this extraordinary work, which had only recently been consigned to Kennedy’s and not yet been hanged or illustrated in their Quarterly. After some work on the price, I acquired one of the most sympathetic yet dignified paintings I have ever seen. At the time it was entitled Hard Times, but later research unearthed the original (and politically incorrect) title of Hard Times, Massa. Along the way, “Massa” was dropped.