A Pastoral Visit

Richard Norris Brooke

(American; b. Warrenton, Va., 1847–d. Warrenton, Va., 1920)

Title: 

A Pastoral Visit[1]

Date: 

1881

Medium: 
Oil on canvas
Size: 

47 x 65 13/16 in. (119.5 x 167.1 cm)

Museum Purchase, Gallery Fund

Accession Number: 

81.8

Brooke enjoyed a long and successful artistic career in Washington, D.C. Active in almost every local arts organization, the painter served as vice principal of the Corcoran School of Art from 1902 to 1918. A Pastoral Visit depicts an elderly minister seated at a table with a family of parishioners. Of the numerous paintings by Brooke that represent African American life in rural northern Virginia, this is the most celebrated. The artist portrayed the figures in this large canvas with a degree of humanity and dignity rare in 19th-century images of African Americans, which Brooke criticized as “works of flimsy treatment and vulgar exaggeration.” Here, he grouped the highly individualized figures as an intact domestic unit, engaged in a cultural activity important to white and black families alike.