An eccentric and cantankerous man, John Quidor achieved fame in his lifetime for paintings of banners and fire engines, none of which survive. Today he is remembered for a series of fantastic, grotesque paintings based on the stories of Washington Irving (1783-1859) — a series whose exuberant style differs from the general run of American genre paintings, which tend to be more understated in mood and realistic in style. The Devil and Tom Walker belongs to this curious group of works. It portrays a scene from Irving’s Tales of a Traveler (1824), in which Tom Walker, who was “not a man to be troubled with any fears,” encounters the Devil while on an evening outing.
Credit Line: Text courtesy of The Cleveland Museum of Art.