Politics in an Oyster House

Richard Caton Woodville1848

The Walters Art Museum

The Walters Art Museum

During a brief career Woodville produced a number of paintings that serve as key documents of urban life in pre-Civil War America. After training in his native Baltimore, Woodville traveled to Düsseldorf to enroll in the town's renowned art academy. He remained in Germany for six years and then briefly visited Paris and London before his early death at the age of thirty. While an expatriate, Woodville painted small, anecdotal genre scenes recalling life in Baltimore. Portrayed here is a typical scene in mid 19th-century Baltimore as described by Charles Dickens: "[of] all eaters of fish, or flesh, or fowl, in these latitudes, the swallowers of oysters are not gregarious . . . and copying the coyness of the thing they eat, do sit apart in curtained boxes, and consort by twos, not by two hundreds." The humor Woodville usually imparted to his subjects is illustrated in this typical Baltimore scene showing local individuals, seated in the booth of an oyster house, engaged in conversation. This work was executed in Düsseldorf for the Baltimore lawyer John H. B. Latrobe (1803-1891).

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  • Title: Politics in an Oyster House
  • Date Created: 1848
  • Physical Dimensions: w33 x h40.6 x d5.08 cm
  • Type: paintings
  • Rights: Gift of C. Morgan Marshall, 1945, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/
  • External Link: The Walters Art Museum
  • Medium: oil on fabric
  • Provenance: John H. B. Latrobe, Baltimore, 1848 [from the artist]; C. Morgan Marshall [date and mode of acquisition unknown]; Walters Art Museum, 1945, by gift.
  • Place of Origin: Dusseldorf, Germany
  • ExhibitionHistory: Four Centuries of American Art. Minneapolis Institute of Arts, Minneapolis. 1963-1964; Three Hundred Fifty Years of Art and Architecture in Maryland. Art Gallery, University of Maryland, College Park. 1984; From Torchlights to Television. Maryland Historical Society, Baltimore. 1986-1987; Highlights from the Collection. The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. 1998-2001; America: The New World in Nineteenth Century Painting. Osterreichische Galerie Belvedere, Vienna. 1999; American Stories. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles. 2009-2010; The Dusseldorf School of Painting-Crossing Bridges between Cultures. Stiftung Museum Kunst Palast, Dusseldorf. 2011-2012
  • Artist: Richard Caton Woodville