Please wait for the image of Brown's Berry Boy to load. The portrait portrays a young boy in the bloom of health and youth jumping a stone fence as he heads towards the viewer. He wears a white shirt and trousers,as did most boys in portraits of the time. The works is soft with mostly greens and browns as the colors.
 

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Boys are found everywhere-on top of, underneath, inside of, climbing on, swinging from, running around or jumping to. Mothers love them, little girls hate them, older sisters and brothers tolerate them, adults ignore them and Heaven protects them. A boy is Truth with dirt on its face, Beauty with a cut on its finger, Wisdom with bubble gum in its hair and the Hope of the future with a frog in its pocket."

Alan Marshall Beck


Portraits of Children and Nature

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John George Brown (1831-1913) was born into an poor, educated
family in England. Wanting to be an artist he took an apprenticeship
decorating of glass objects. When 20, he emigrated to Brooklyn NY
and worked as a glass cutter by day while studying at the National
Academy of Design at night. His employer was so impressed with
Brown's designs that he helped him study with miniaturist Thomas
Cummings. Brown later married Cummings' daughter. His portraits of
children quickly became very popular. His best-known subjects were
the many poor urchins that lived on the streets of New York where
they survived as bootblacks and newsboys. Brown enjoyed summers
in the country. The New York Times critic, Charles DeKay (11/13/04)
attributed much of Brown's popularity to, "the sentiment that hits
the average man in his or her tenderest sensibilities, the love of
children and home." He also said that, "The vast popularity of the
rustic dramas is based on the power of this wholesome and innocent
sentiment." In the years after the Civil War, however, his portraits
were primarily of rural children. The years after the Civil War were
ones of great nostalgia for children who may have symbolized a loss
of innocence due to the war and a sense of hope for the future.
Whereas most of New York's street urchins were boys and therefore
most of Brown's works portraying those children were of boys, his
rural children were mostly girls usually portrayed in sun-dappled
woods.

Brown's portraits of country children depicted active, healthy, happy
children in the bloom of youth. His portraits of street children also
showed happy, healthy children. To a reporter he described them
as follows, "My boys lived in the open. There wasn't a danger of
the streets that they didn't face some time or other during the day.
They would chance, any time, of being run down by a wagon or
street car for the sake of selling a paper or selling a 'shine'... they
were, alert, strong, healthy little chaps." Many children were run
down; 7000 in 1925 alone in New York City. Brown's works reflected
the attitude of many who admired the independence and pluck of
these children. However, in a major study of child labor in 1912
noted the persistent, "widespread delusion that ... these little
merchants of the street are receiving valuable training in business
methods and will later develop into leaders in the affairs of men."

Berry Boy was completed in 1877.


"Shoe Shine Boy", 1885