Category: Research Notes

I was struck that contemporary viewers of Weber’s painting apparently did not mind the vagueness of the image’s relation to the American land it was thought to depict. . . . Weber was thought to ably capture a quintessential national identity through nature, even if he appeared unwilling to brand his work as a glorification of a strictly American spirit.

By depicting a celebrated African site singled out by African Americans at an 1843 state convention in Michigan as proof that “we are worthy of the name of American citizens,” as asserted by Committee Chairman William Lambert, Duncanson was expressing race pride and alliance with African Americans seeking enfranchisement.

This resource also offers a model for sharing the background research that is often too detailed, wide-ranging, and extraneous to be published in a conventional format, as well as too inaccessible in museum archives or scholars’ homes for general use.

Taking cues from the critique of institutional racism sharpened by the Black Lives Matter movement and from more recent scholarship, I consider here how Hopper’s work was promoted in a time of cultural nationalism, as well as how his art should be reassessed in the light of today’s attention to cultural diversity.

I have looked at hundreds of colonial portraits, and the most intriguing figure that I have seen is unnamed, barely visible, only about five inches tall, and whose face is largely obscured. This figure is an African groom—who I can now argue is the first known representation of a person of African descent in a British North American painting.

In finding out more information about Banks’s life, might I somehow redress the bodily and archival violence that rendered her an unnamed figure in a museum display? Moreover, how could I tell Banks’s story—or, a story of racialized violence—without committing further violence in my own act of narration?