According to Martha Hoppin, "[John George] Brown's real genius lay in his ability to tell a story and to sense the direction of popular taste." (Country Paths and City Sidewalks: The Art of J.G. Brown, Springfield, Massachusetts, 1989, p. 28) His genre pictures of children, which he painted in the latter half of the nineteenth century, achieve this goal. Although his reputation faded somewhat after his death, Brown enjoyed enormous success during his lifetime. His paintings of city and country children appealed to the general public and the exceptional rate at which he sold his works attested to Brown's popularity.
"In depicting his country boys, Brown drew from a well-established vocabulary which already existed by the mid-1870's. Based on William Sidney Mount's country boys of the 1840's, Eastman Johnson further developed the type in the early 1860's and Winslow Homer refined it in the 1870's. Johnson's archetypal image, The Barefoot Boy, which Prang reproduced as a chromolithograph in 1867, codified the costume and expression of the country boy in painting and illustration. These essential features--bare feet, rolled up pants (sometimes held up by suspenders), a loose, white, long-sleeved shirt, rumpled (usually straw) hat, fresh face and happy expression--came to visually define the country boy." (Country Paths and City Sidewalks, pp. 16-17)
Each of these characteristics, from the bare feet to the rumpled straw hat, describes the two boys in Chores. Perhaps the most striking characteristics are the happy expressions on their faces. Although their clothes are worn, their lighthearted attitude while completing their chores shines through. Brown has given the viewer a delightful glimpse into the life of two country boys.