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Gari Melchers
The Sermon
1886
oil
62 5/8 x 86 1/2 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Bequest of Henry Ward Ranger through the National Academy of Design



The congregation of a Dutch church reacts variously to an unseen pastor's sermon. In a pew against the wall two men listen intently, while the parishioners below them seem to daydream. One bows her head in pious slumber as her neighbor watches reproachfully.

Melchers delighted in presenting a vivid slice of ordinary life, both psychological and material. He painted the motto “True and Clear” above his studio door in the Dutch fishing village of Egmond. Critics frequently alluded to his skill, calling The Sermon “the last word of realism in painting.”