Abolitionist Art & Images of Slavery

The New York Times Article

by Eve M. Kahn

was published August 2, 2012.

“Artists before the Civil War took personal risks when portraying slaves. Southerners did not want their more abusive practices to be professionally documented.”

“In 1853 the British painter Eyre Crowe sidled into a slave auction house on a side street in Richmond, Va., and started to sketch white bidders eying a row of neatly dressed children, women and men with traces of fear and anxiety on their impassive faces.”

"After the Sale: Slaves Going South from Richmond" 1853 by Eyre Crowe courtesy of the Chicago Historical Society Image ID # ICHi-52422

“’Slaves Waiting for Sale,’ Crowe’s 1861 painting based on the sketches, is suggestive of terrible suffering, as the mothers gaze fondly at their children for perhaps the last time. But unlike his abolitionist colleagues’ equally accurate depictions of torture, his tableau was wholesome enough to be widely exhibited. British critics at the time wrote that it aroused sympathy ‘without being too painful,’ the art historian Maurie D. McInnis points out in ‘Slaves Waiting for Sale: Abolitionist Art and the American Slave Trade’ (University of Chicago Press).”

“Her new book is one of half a dozen recent studies of how African-Americans were historically depicted. Scholars are deciphering what artists were expressing and how sitters were probably feeling, along with how audiences reacted . . . “

For complete New York Times article, go to: http://nyti.ms/OOoZyL

"Slave sale, Charleston, South Carolina" from a sketch by Eyre Crowe (1856) New York Public Library, Image ID - 812592

One Response to Abolitionist Art & Images of Slavery

  1. Sameera V. Thurmond September 8, 2012 at 11:47 pm #

    The Slaves Waiting For Sale has me a little perplexed.  I can't imagine ANY slave sitting there waiting to be sold with a smile on her face.  I would think the slaves would have an expression of anxiety if nothing else!  Most human beings don't like going to the unknown.

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