Race and Racism in Nineteenth-Century Art: The Ascendency of Robert Duncanson, Edward Bannister, and Edmonia Lewis

Posted in Arts, Biography, Books, Forthcoming Media, History, Monographs, United States on 2021-06-10 00:49Z by Steven

Race and Racism in Nineteenth-Century Art: The Ascendency of Robert Duncanson, Edward Bannister, and Edmonia Lewis

University Press of Mississippi
2021-07-15
282 pages
30 b&w illustrations
Hardcover ISBN: 9781496834348
Paperback ISBN: 9781496834355

Naurice Frank Woods Jr., Associate Professor of African American Studies
University of North Carolina, Greensboro

Foreword by George Dimock, Associate Professor Emeritus of Art
University of North Carolina, Greensboro

The extraordinary struggle, achievement, loss, and reclamation of three brilliant African American artists of the 1800s

Painters Robert Duncanson (ca. 1821–1872) and Edward Bannister (1828–1901) and sculptor Mary Edmonia Lewis (ca. 1844–1907) each became accomplished African American artists. But as emerging art makers of color during the antebellum period, they experienced numerous incidents of racism that severely hampered their pursuits of a profession that many in the mainstream considered the highest form of social cultivation. Despite barriers imposed upon them due to their racial inheritance, these artists shared a common cause in demanding acceptance alongside their white contemporaries as capable painters and sculptors on local, regional, and international levels.

Author Naurice Frank Woods Jr. provides an in-depth examination of the strategies deployed by Duncanson, Bannister, and Lewis that enabled them not only to overcome prevailing race and gender inequality, but also to achieve a measure of success that eventually placed them in the top rank of nineteenth-century American art.

Unfortunately, the racism that hampered these three artists throughout their careers ultimately denied them their rightful place as significant contributors to the development of American art. Dominant art historians and art critics excluded them in their accounts of the period. In this volume, Woods restores their artistic legacies and redeems their memories, introducing these significant artists to rightful, new audiences.

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Iconic Fine Arts Sculptor Edmonia Lewis Honored In Google Doodle

Posted in Articles, Arts, Biography, History, Media Archive, United States, Women on 2017-02-03 01:01Z by Steven

Iconic Fine Arts Sculptor Edmonia Lewis Honored In Google Doodle

The Huffington Post
2017-02-01

Zahara Hill, Black Voices Editorial Fellow


Sophie Diao
The artist’s dedication to portraying her African-American and Native-American ancestry separated her from other sculptors. 

Black History Month began with the art of this lesser-known black icon.

In honor of the start of Black History Month on Wednesday, Google Doodle paid tribute to Edmonia Lewis, who is considered to be the first woman of African-American and Native American descent to earn global recognition as a fine arts sculptor.

Lewis, who was born in Greenbush, New York in 1844, is particularly known for sculpting on “The Death of Cleopatra,” which is a graphic but highly praised depiction of the death of the former Egyptian Queen. Google Doodler Sophie Diao told HuffPost she drew the illustration on Google’s homepage in homage to Lewis because she has always been inspired by her work…

Read the entire article here.

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Child of the Fire: Mary Edmonia Lewis and the Problem of Art History’s Black and Indian Subject

Posted in Biography, Books, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Monographs, Native Americans/First Nation, Women on 2014-04-04 18:10Z by Steven

Child of the Fire: Mary Edmonia Lewis and the Problem of Art History’s Black and Indian Subject

Duke University Press
2010
344 pages
51 illustrations, incl. 18 in color
Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4247-2
Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8223-4266-3

Kirsten Pai Buick, Associate Professor of Art History
University of New Mexico

Child of the Fire is the first book-length examination of the career of the nineteenth-century artist Mary Edmonia Lewis, best known for her sculptures inspired by historical and biblical themes. Throughout this richly illustrated study, Kirsten Pai Buick investigates how Lewis and her work were perceived, and their meanings manipulated, by others and the sculptor herself. She argues against the racialist art discourse that has long cast Lewis’s sculptures as reflections of her identity as an African American and Native American woman who lived most of her life abroad. Instead, by seeking to reveal Lewis’s intentions through analyses of her career and artwork, Buick illuminates Lewis’s fraught but active participation in the creation of a distinct “American” national art, one dominated by themes of indigeneity, sentimentality, gender, and race. In so doing, she shows that the sculptor variously complicated and facilitated the dominant ideologies of the vanishing American (the notion that Native Americans were a dying race), sentimentality, and true womanhood.

Buick considers the institutions and people that supported Lewis’s career—including Oberlin College, abolitionists in Boston, and American expatriates in Italy—and she explores how their agendas affected the way they perceived and described the artist. Analyzing four of Lewis’s most popular sculptures, each created between 1866 and 1876, Buick discusses interpretations of Hiawatha in terms of the cultural impact of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s epic poem The Song of Hiawatha; Forever Free and Hagar in the Wilderness in light of art historians’ assumptions that artworks created by African American artists necessarily reflect African American themes; and The Death of Cleopatra in relation to broader problems of reading art as a reflection of identity.

Table of Contents

  • Illustrations
  • Preface. Framing the Problem: American Africanisms, American Indianisms, and the Processes of Art History
  • Acknowledgments
  • 1. Inventing the Artist: Locating the Black and Catholic Subject
  • 2. The “Problem” of Art History’s Black Subject
  • 3. Longfellow, Lewis, and the Cultural Work of Hiawatha
  • 4. Identity, Tautology, and The Death of Cleopatra
  • Conclusion. Separate and Unequal: Toward a More Responsive and Responsible Art History
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
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