Born in Boston, Enoch Wood Perry, Jr. moved to New Orleans with his family as a teenager, where he worked as a store clerk from 1848 until 1852. For two years, Perry studied painting in Germany at the Düsseldorf Academy with Emanuel Leutze (1816-1868), best known for his canvas Washington Crossing the Delaware (1851, Metropolitan Museum of Art). He subsequently spent time in Paris, Rome, and Venice, serving as U.S. Consul to the latter city from 1856 until 1858. Returning to America, he settled briefly in Philadelphia, but returned to New Orleans, where he painted Jefferson Davis in 1861 (State of Alabama Dept. of Archives & History, Montgomery). In 1862, Perry set off again and over the next four year painted in California, Hawaii and Utah. In 1866, he settled in New York, become a full member of the National Academy of Design three years later.
Perry achieved wide popularity with his genre scenes like Inside a Barn, which shows the influence of the William Sidney Mount (1807-1868), whose work Perry would have seen in New York. The painting also relates to popular post-Civil War iconography, which cast the Union veteran as a latter day Cincinnatus, beating his sword into a plowshare, and his gun into a reaping hook. Moreover, though, Perry’s composition presents a nostalgic view of the American farmer, well after Cyrus McCormick’s reaper had revolutionized agriculture.