American Folk Art Museum

Since 1961, the American Folk Art Museum has been the leading institution shaping the understanding of art by the self-taught through its exhibitions, publications, and educational programs.

In seventeenth-century Europe, it became an established trope to include enslaved people in portraits of white subjects....
01/10/2024

In seventeenth-century Europe, it became an established trope to include enslaved people in portraits of white subjects. This pictorial convention dehumanized Black people by rendering them as a visual type—as symbols rather than as individuals. Although less common than on the other side of the Atlantic, the insidious artistic convention of the “Black page” made its way to the British American colonies by the turn of the eighteenth century.

As seen in this Maryland-based portrait, a typical composition shows a Black child gazing at a white figure, emphasizing the authority of the sitter in contrast to the enslaved figure’s servile role. Conveyed with individualized features, the Black boy in this portrait is likely based on a real person, an attendant to a wealthy white child of similar age. The presence of a drum suggests that play was among the Black attendant’s duties. Clothed in luxurious fabrics, he would also have been expected to represent the family’s prosperity and power through a dignified and polished self-presentation. Although we do not know the Black boy’s name, he was likely one of the 150 people enslaved by the Calvert family at their plantation, Mt. Airy.

This painting is currently on view in the exhibition “Unnamed Figures: Black Presence and Absence in the Early American North,” open through March 24, 2024.



→ Learn more about this painting and read a curatorial note about its title by downloading the free Bloomberg Connects app at https://www.bloombergconnects.org/

🎨 John Hesselius (1728–1778), Charles Calvert and Once-Known Enslaved Attendant, Rosaryville, Maryland, 1761, Oil on canvas, Baltimore Museum of Art, gift of Alfred R. and Henry G. Riggs in memory of General Lawrason Riggs, BMA 1941.4.

As a child, Eugene Andolsek collected stamps because he was attracted by the intricate lines and delicate colors. During...
01/09/2024

As a child, Eugene Andolsek collected stamps because he was attracted by the intricate lines and delicate colors. During his adult life, Andolsek made thousands of similarly detailed ink drawings, though he rarely shared them with anyone. His nightly ritual entailed drawing hypnotic patterns on paper at his kitchen table using a straightedge and a compass. The artist said such works just “came out” of him, and that he would sometimes wake “and a drawing was there, and I didn’t even know how it got there.”

Eugene Andolsek (1921–2008), Untitled , Crabtree, Pennsylvania, 1950–2003, India ink on graph paper, 16 1/2 x 22 in. American Folk Art Museum, New York, Gift of the artist, 2005.18.1, Photo by Gavin Ashworth.

“We’re very much hoping that folks, in the broadest sense, will come away from the exhibition with how to look with a cr...
01/08/2024

“We’re very much hoping that folks, in the broadest sense, will come away from the exhibition with how to look with a critical eye…we’re actually asking for our visitors to really play an active role in looking, and to really unpack what they’re looking at,” — curators Emelie Gevalt and Sadé Ayorinde on the exhibition “Unnamed Figures: Black Presence and Absence in the Early American North.”⁠

Listen to these two curators discuss the exhibition on a new episode of ABC's Here and Now, available to watch at the link below: ⬇️

https://abc7ny.com/here-and-now-sandra-bookman-children-of-promise-rapper-styles-p/14291922/

These decorative decoys were used by ice spear fishers in the 20th century to help catch fish, a concept that was first ...
01/06/2024

These decorative decoys were used by ice spear fishers in the 20th century to help catch fish, a concept that was first developed by Native Americans. Fishermen would wait near a hole cut in the ice, ready to strike with a handheld spear as the target fish passed below, attracted by the painted decoy dangling in the water.⁠ 🐟️ 🐟️ 🐟️ ⁠

Oscar "Pelee" Peterson is likely the best-known carver to have emerged during the Great Depression years, when ice spearfishing boomed across the American Midwest as a means of supplementing both incomes and diets. Peterson spent more than fifty years making decoys, and it is estimated that he may have made as many as 10,000 to 15,000 pieces, which are often distinguished by their enameled surfaces and bright colors. ⁠

Oscar "Pelee" Peterson (1887–1951), Brook Trout Decoy, Cadillac, Michigan, United States, c. 1935–1944. Paint on wood and metal, 1 1/2 × 8 × 2 3/4". Gift of Lori Zabar in memory of Selma Segal, 1991.14.4. Photo by Gavin Ashworth.

Wool quilts were among the earliest American bed covers and  remained popular until the 1840s, when they were largely re...
01/04/2024

Wool quilts were among the earliest American bed covers and remained popular until the 1840s, when they were largely replaced by cotton textiles. However, across New England states, wool was often used throughout the entire 19th century due to the significant warmth they provided during winter months. ❄️

🪡🧵 Artist Unidentified, Pieced Quilt, New England, United States c. 1810–1820. Wool, 96 × 88". Collection American Folk Art Museum. Gift of Cyril Irwin Nelson, 2005.11.4. Photo by Gavin Ashworth.

On Monday, January 8th, individuals who are blind or have low vision are invited to join us for a virtual description to...
01/03/2024

On Monday, January 8th, individuals who are blind or have low vision are invited to join us for a virtual description tour of “Unnamed Figures: Black Presence and Absence in the Early American North.”

Starting at 10:00 am EST, AFAM Senior Educator Nicole Haroutunian will facilitate a 90-minute verbal tour of the exhibition. Featuring 125 artworks from the late 17th century to the early 19th century, “Unnamed Figures” offers a new window onto Black representation in a region that is often overlooked in narratives of early African American history.

This program is free, but space is limited. For more details and to register, please email [email protected]. All registrants will receive a Zoom link upon confirmation.

Gallery photo by Eva Cruz, EveryStory.

Highlighting the casual sharing of space between residents of different races, this work speaks subtly but significantly...
01/02/2024

Highlighting the casual sharing of space between residents of different races, this work speaks subtly but significantly to Black participation in everyday urban life in Philadelphia. Documenting the artist’s lamp-oil store in 1818, the watercolor shows the comings and goings of several figures, including a Black coachman driving by at left and, possibly, a woman of color standing in the central doorway.

In the years following the Revolution, Philadelphia was home to one of the most important free Black communities in the nation. The city served as a center for Black leaders such as Absalom Jones, founder of the Free African Society, and James Forten, activist and financial backer of the abolitionist newspaper "The Liberator." Philadelphia also offered economic opportunities for Black laborers, professionals, and entrepreneurs, among them artisans, caterers, and musicians, who established several successful Black-owned businesses.

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This watercolor is currently on view in the exhibition “Unnamed Figures: Black Presence and Absence in the Early American North,” on view through March 24, 2024. Admission is free!

🎨 Joseph Shoemaker Russell (1795–1860), Russell’s Store at Northeast Corner of Chestnut and Strawberry Streets, Philadelphia, Philadelphia, 1818, Watercolor and ink on paper. The Dietrich American Foundation, Philadelphia, 7.8.1320.

Happy New Year from AFAM! 🎉🥂 In the coming months, we look forward to welcoming you for new exhibitions, programs, and m...
01/01/2024

Happy New Year from AFAM! 🎉🥂 In the coming months, we look forward to welcoming you for new exhibitions, programs, and more. Here are a few upcoming highlights:

→ Throughout January, February, and March, join us for free in-person and virtual tours of "Unnamed Figures: Black Presence and Absence in the Early American North," and "Marvels of My Own Inventiveness."

→ On April 12, we're opening two new exhibitions: "Francesc Tosquelles: Avant-Garde Psychiatry and the Birth of Art Brut," and "Somewhere to Roost."

Situated at the intersection of art and psychiatry, "Francesc Tosquelles" explores the legacy of a Catalan psychiatrist who devised a series of psychiatric practices predicated on non-hierarchical relations between patients, doctors, manual laborers, neighboring communities, and outsiders. Meanwhile, "Somewhere to Roost" explores the ways that artists from the AFAM collection evoke and construct ideas of “home.”

→ For more information on upcoming programs and exhibitions, please visit the link in our bio or go to folkartmuseum.org. We wish you all a safe and healthy new year! ❤️

In the 19th century, a number of popular portraitists worked in watercolor, creating small-format likenesses that were m...
12/29/2023

In the 19th century, a number of popular portraitists worked in watercolor, creating small-format likenesses that were more affordable and efficiently executed than large, slow-drying works of oil on canvas. New England painter Joseph H. Davis consistently showed his sitters in profile, creating a sense of shared taste through the use of brightly patterned rugs and grain-painted furniture, both prevalent in households of the time.

🎨 Joseph H. Davis (1811–1865), Sylvanus C. Foss and Mary Jane Foss, Probably Strafford, New Hampshire, United States, 1836. Watercolor, pencil, and ink on paper. 10 3/4 × 15" (sight), Gift of Ralph Esmerian, 2013.1.14. Photo by John Bigelow Taylor.

A note pinned to the back of this 19th century quilt highlights the intimate role that textiles play to preserve persona...
12/28/2023

A note pinned to the back of this 19th century quilt highlights the intimate role that textiles play to preserve personal histories. Written by Emma Mabel King, it states that the quilt was made by “Mother” and salvaged from "pieces of our dresses, among others her own wedding dress, and our first silk dresses. It is in a way a sort of history of our early days."

The note did not state why this quilt was made, though due to its sentimental associations, it may have been made for Emma's wedding in 1869, or the birth of her first son a year later.

🪡 🧵 Log Cabin Quilt, Barn Raising Variation, Possibly Sarah Lamb King, United States c. 1869-1875, Silk 67 1/8 x 67 ⅛," Collection American Folk Art Museum, New York. Gift of Mrs. E. Regan Kerney, 1980.12.1. Photo by Gavin Ashworth.

For decades, a misreading of Thomas W. Commeraw’s name led art historians to assume that he was of European descent. In ...
12/27/2023

For decades, a misreading of Thomas W. Commeraw’s name led art historians to assume that he was of European descent. In fact, he was African American, formerly enslaved by potter William Crolius. By the late 1790s, Commeraw was operating his own business as a free Black potter in New York City. His distinctive name stamp appears on many of his works, as does the location of his shop in Corlears Hook on the Lower East Side. His name also appears in New York City directories of the period, leaving invaluable documentary traces of his career.

This two-gallon jar is currently on view in the exhibition “Unnamed Figures: Black Presence and Absence in the Early American North,” through March 24, 2024. Admission is free!

Thomas W. Commeraw (active 1797–1819), Two-Gallon Jar, New York City, c. 1797–1819, Salt-glazed stoneware with cobalt decoration, Private collection.

Looking for free, interactive ways to get inspired by art? ❤️ Here are three ways to engage with AFAM this week! → On De...
12/26/2023

Looking for free, interactive ways to get inspired by art? ❤️ Here are three ways to engage with AFAM this week!

→ On December 27 at 1:00 p.m., join us at the Museum for free tours of our current exhibitions, “Unnamed Figures: Black Presence and Absence in the Early American North,” and “Marvels of My Own Inventiveness.”

→ Download our digital guide on Bloomberg Connects, the free arts and culture app. Our guide features exhibition highlights, audio tours, artists interviews, and more!

→ Explore our Youtube channel and enjoy a selection of videos and workshops related to our exhibitions and collection.

Visit folkartmuseum.org for more information! Photos by Eva Cruz, EveryStory.

Merry Christmas from AFAM! ❤️🎄🎁 🎀Artist unidentified, Compass and Wreath Quilt, Pennsylvania, United States c. 1930–1935...
12/25/2023

Merry Christmas from AFAM! ❤️🎄🎁 🎀

Artist unidentified, Compass and Wreath Quilt, Pennsylvania, United States c. 1930–1935. Cotton with cotton embroidery, 88 3/4 × 78 1/2". Collection American Folk Art Museum. Gift of Shelly Zegart, 1994.12.2. Photo by Geoffrey Carr.

12/24/2023
This extraordinary quilt was gifted to AFAM by a descendant of the maker, and was discovered during the Museum's New Yor...
12/23/2023

This extraordinary quilt was gifted to AFAM by a descendant of the maker, and was discovered during the Museum's New York Quilt Project, an ambitious statewide quilt documentation effort initiated in 1985. Over a period of 21 months, more than 6,000 quilts were examined and recorded in counties around the state.⁠

Stars, in all their variety, were among the most prevalent patterns seen. In this example, a field of spinning compass stars is surrounded by a border of beautiful appliquéd trees. The quiltmaker, Elsey Halstead, meticulously cross-stitched her name, the location, and the date on the quilt. ⁠

🪡🧵 Elsey A. Halstead (1830–1850), "Rising Star Variation Quilt," Minisink (now Middletown), New York, United States, March 23 c. 1848. Cotton, 100 × 85". Gift of Kathryn Trotta Kane and family in memory of our beloved grandmother Margaret Halstead Minch. May an appreciation of the love, beauty, and hard work that went into this quilt continue to inspire future generations. We sincerely hope that others will experience the same joy the quilt has given our family over many years, 2012.16.1. Photo by Gavin Ashworth.

Now that it’s officially winter, we’re dreaming of this cozy winter wonderland by Grandma Moses. ❄️ ☃️ 🛷Born in 1860, An...
12/22/2023

Now that it’s officially winter, we’re dreaming of this cozy winter wonderland by Grandma Moses. ❄️ ☃️ 🛷

Born in 1860, Anna Mary Robertson Moses, or “Grandma” Moses, began to paint when she was nearly 80 years old. Known for capturing nostalgic and cheerful scenes of rural American life, Moses quickly became a national celebrity. Her work was organized into traveling exhibitions, published in monographs, and reproduced on Christmas cards. She created over 1,500 paintings, and continued to make art until a few months before her death at age 101.

🎨 Anna Mary Robertson "Grandma" Moses, "Dividing of the Ways," Eagle Bridge, New York, United states 1947. Oil and tempera on masonite 16 x 20." Collection American Folk Art Museum, New York. Gift of Galerie St. Etienne, New York, in memory of Otto Kallir © 1969 (renewed 1997), Grandma Moses Properties Co., New York, 1983.10.1 Photo by John Parnell © 1969 (renewed 1997), Grandma Moses Properties Co., New York.

“Unnamed Figures: Black Presence and Absence in the Early American North” is a “vitally important, deeply moving” exhibi...
12/21/2023

“Unnamed Figures: Black Presence and Absence in the Early American North” is a “vitally important, deeply moving” exhibition, writes Karen Rosenberg for The New York Times.

Read the full review below!

A vital American Folk Art Museum show reckons with centuries of erasure by uncovering historical records of the unnamed Black people depicted in artwork.

Of the various forms of fraktur, small gift drawings were often the work of teachers, who gave them as expressions of es...
12/20/2023

Of the various forms of fraktur, small gift drawings were often the work of teachers, who gave them as expressions of esteem to their students. This gift drawing was made in 1819 by Johann Adam Eyer, who was considered a prolific and influential Pennsylvania German artist during the 19th century.

🎨 Johann Adam Eyer (1755–1837), Fraktur Gift Drawing, Pennsylvania, United States, c 1819. Watercolor and ink on paper, 4 7/8 × 2 7/8", Anonymous gift, 2012.17.2. Photo by Barbara Huston.

In 1832, the Black Connecticut needleworker who made this sampler took a remarkable step: at a time when few Black girls...
12/19/2023

In 1832, the Black Connecticut needleworker who made this sampler took a remarkable step: at a time when few Black girls had access to formal education, Sarah Ann Major Harris contacted schoolmistress Prudence Crandall to request admission to her School for Young Ladies and Misses.

Though Crandall granted Harris’s entrance, white parental backlash was swift: the schoolmistress was arrested for her radical decision, and a white mob attacked the school and forced its permanent closure. Against this turbulent context, Harris’s genealogical sampler takes on even greater meaning. She records the details of her family history, including the marriage of her parents and the names and birth dates of her siblings, in this quiet but powerful emblem of one young woman’s bravery and perseverance in the face of racism.

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🪡🧵 This needlework is currently on view in the exhibition "Unnamed Figures: Black Presence and Absence in the Early American North" through March 24, 2024. Admission is free!

Sarah Ann Major Harris (1812–1878), Sampler, Norwich area, Connecticut c. 1826–1828, Silk on linen, Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library, Delaware, museum purchase with funds drawn from the Centenary Fund, 2017.0032 A, B.

19th century paintings on velvet typically took the form of theorems, or works executed with the aid of hollow-cut stenc...
12/18/2023

19th century paintings on velvet typically took the form of theorems, or works executed with the aid of hollow-cut stencils. However, this painting is drawn freehand and appears to be inspired by classical Greek funerary imagery that was introduced into the decorative arts after the mid-18th century, following the rediscovery of the ancient sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum. ⁠

Within this type of art, and especially in portraits of young children, birds often made an appearance, sometimes tethered to a child’s arm or hand. ⁠🕊️⁠

Artist unidentified, “Theorem Painting: Girl with Doves,” United States c. 1830–1840. Watercolor and ink on velvet 25 × 19 × 1 1/4" (framed). Collection American Folk Art Museum, New York. Gift of Jerry Grossman in memory of Shelley Clayman Grossman, 2001.4.1. Photo by Gavin Ashworth⁠.

Planning to do some festive activities ahead of the holidays? This Vestie Davis painting in the AFAM collection depicts ...
12/16/2023

Planning to do some festive activities ahead of the holidays? This Vestie Davis painting in the AFAM collection depicts ice skating at New York City’s iconic rink. ⁠⛸️🎄

Vestie Davis (1903-1978), Rockefeller Center, New York City c. 1965. Oil on canvas 18 x 24". Collection American Folk Art Museum, New York. Bequest of Gloria Bley Miller, 2008.5.22. Photo by Gavin Ashworth.

“When you’re in front of a canvas, it’s your turn.” – Claude Lawrence. Featuring paintings by five contemporary Black ar...
12/15/2023

“When you’re in front of a canvas, it’s your turn.” – Claude Lawrence.

Featuring paintings by five contemporary Black artists in the Museum’s collection, “Marvels of My Own Inventiveness” invites viewers to enter into direct conversation with the works on view by reading words spoken by the artists themselves, listening to commentary on their practice by the contemporary artist Kevin Xiques, or becoming absorbed in an original jazz composition.

Ultimately, the exhibition seeks to create a space for close looking, sensory exploration, and contemplative meditation. “Marvels” is open through March 24, 2024. Admission is free!

📸 Photos of works by Purvis Young, Claude Lawrence, Mary T. Smith, J.B. Murray, and Leonard Daley by Eva Cruz, EveryStory.

This complex and colorful quilt was likely made by Samuel Steinberger, a New York City tailor who used remnants of satin...
12/14/2023

This complex and colorful quilt was likely made by Samuel Steinberger, a New York City tailor who used remnants of satin and velvet linings to create his work. Census information shows that Steinberger and his wife, Sarah, were born in Hungary before immigrating to the U.S. in the late 19th century.

The artwork here was likely created to function as a parlor throw, but Steinberger’s quilt marks a unique variation of both the “Courthouse Steps” and “Log Cabin” quilt patterns. Atypical changes in color and fabric — or the substitution of a light color where a dark would be expected — gives the piece a visual unpredictability that is different from the regularity often associated with such works. ⁠

🪡🧵 Samuel Steinberger (1865–c.1934), “Log Cabin Quilt, Courthouse Steps Variation,” New York City, c. 1890–1910. Silk, 69 1/2 × 58" (framed). Collection American Folk Art Museum. Gift of Cyril Irwin Nelson in honor of Robert Bishop, Museum director (1977–1991), 1990.17.8. Photo by Gavin Ashworth.

Among the descendants of those enslaved by the white Gough family at the Perry Hall plantation in Baltimore County, a we...
12/13/2023

Among the descendants of those enslaved by the white Gough family at the Perry Hall plantation in Baltimore County, a wealth of names and images emerges.

Sidney Hall Davage – granddaughter of Sib Hall (who may have been a caretaker to the Gough children) – moved her family to Baltimore and raised five freeborn children, her self-possessed presence appearing among the family’s oldest photographs. Davage’s grandson Harry Sythe Cummings, became a pioneering African American attorney, pictured here in a pair of extraordinarily charismatic photographs of him and his wife, Blanche. His sister Ida R. Cummings would be Baltimore’s first Black kindergarten teacher.

A section of the exhibition “Unnamed Figures: Black Presence and Absence in the Early American North” traces this history, leaving visitors to uncover a rich African American genealogical narrative, so often absent from the space of the museum of early American art.

“Unnamed Figures” is on view at the Museum March 24, 2024. Admission is free!
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📸 19th and 20th-century photographs In order of appearance: Sidney Hall Davage, Harry Sythe Cummings, Blanche Conklin Cummings, Ida R. Cummings.

→To access full caption information, download our free digital guide on the Bloomberg Connects app.

At the turn of the nineteenth century, the prominent white Gough family commissioned several views of their Baltimore Co...
12/12/2023

At the turn of the nineteenth century, the prominent white Gough family commissioned several views of their Baltimore County plantation, Perry Hall, to underscore their taste, wealth, and power. Unsurprisingly, we know the name of every white person represented within them. Unnamed are the Black figures both present in and absent from these scenes, among which includes a nursemaid who accompanies the Gough children, a groom who attends to the family on a horseback ride, and the men who labor in the plantation’s fields.

Nonetheless, descendants of the Hall family – formerly enslaved by the Goughs at Perry Hall – would become highly respected members of Baltimore’s free Black community in the nineteenth century. A section of the exhibition “Unnamed Figures: Black Presence and Absence in the Early American North” traces this story, leaving visitors to uncover a rich African American genealogical narrative, so often absent from the space of the museum of early American art.

“Unnamed Figures” is on view at the Museum March 24, 2024. Admission is free!
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[1] Francis Guy (1760–1820), "Perry Hall from the East," Perry Hall, Maryland c. 1805, Oil on canvas, Maryland Center for History and Culture, Baltimore, the Dr. Michael and Marie Abrams Memorial Purchase Fund, 1981.3.1. [2] Francis Guy (1760–1820), "Perry Hall," Perry Hall, Maryland c. 1805, Oil on canvas, Maryland Center for History and Culture, Baltimore, Mrs. Drayton Meade Hite, Purchase Fund in memory of her husband, 1990.48. [3] Francis Guy (1760–1820), Perry Hall, "Slave Quarters with Field Hands at Work," Perry Hall, Maryland c. 1805. Oil on canvas, Maryland Center for History and Culture, Baltimore, purchase through the generosity of Edwin W. Obrecht in memory of Doris Merle Obrecht, 1986.33.1.

From their ancient origins to their nineteenth-century American peak, weathervanes have populated urban and rural landsc...
12/11/2023

From their ancient origins to their nineteenth-century American peak, weathervanes have populated urban and rural landscapes around the world for millennia. Although fundamentally tools to show the direction of the wind, weathervanes are also aesthetic objects designed to capture attention and signal occupations, personal interests, and local and national trends.

This weathervane from the early twentieth century is in the form of a 1909 “Hupmobile,” forecasting the rising popularity of the automobile. 🚗

Artist unidentified, 1909 Hupmobile Weathervane E. G. Washburne & Co./J.L. Mott Ironworks, New York City, New York, United States, 190, Copper with traces of gold leaf 31 x 50 3/8 x13 ¾." Collection American Folk Art Museum, New York Gift of David L. Davies, 2008.3.1 Photo by John Parnell.

12/11/2023

In 1837, a new image of Phillis Wheatley was created for a black audience and published in the R***e des colonies. The journal, directed by abolitionist Cyrille Bissette, aimed to highlight achievements of people of African descent. Wheatley's posthumous depiction in the journal showcased her from the waist up with uncovered afro-textured hair, dressed in a fashionable 1830s gown with sleeve puffs. This representation emphasized her physical attractiveness, departing from earlier modest depictions to cater to black readers' expectations for a more up-to-date and aspirational image.

Still looking for last-minute holiday gift ideas? The AFAM Shop has you covered! Featuring cards, art books, games, clot...
12/09/2023

Still looking for last-minute holiday gift ideas? The AFAM Shop has you covered! Featuring cards, art books, games, clothing, and more, we have something for everyone on your list. ❄️

Be sure to place orders before December 16th to guarantee shipping by Christmas. And, if you become a member today, you can save 20% off all purchases through December 11.

https://shop.folkartmuseum.org

12/08/2023

The final 2023 show of the museum's critically acclaimed series is tonight on Facebook Live. Music featured at the Free Music Fridays series thematically reflects the spirit of self-taught art on view at the museum. Hosted by Lara Ewen.

This month's show features:
6:00 pm: Andrea Wittgens
6:30 pm: Jeanne Marie Boes
7:00 pm: Michael Patrick F. Smith

Please consider making a donation of any size to support our virtual programs:
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/free-music-fridays-facebook-live-december-8-2023-tickets-754380551537

Note: Music will be broadcast live from 6:00 to 7:30 pm, and donations will be accepted until 9:30 pm.

Image: Andrea Wittgens by Julia Drummond, Jeanne Marie Boes by Amanda Kaye, and Michael Patrick F. Smith by Mark Cornelison

The remarkable story of Black Revolutionary War veteran Agrippa Hull is startlingly underrecognized. Born free in rural ...
12/08/2023

The remarkable story of Black Revolutionary War veteran Agrippa Hull is startlingly underrecognized. Born free in rural Massachusetts, Hull enlisted in the Continental Army, where he would develop a close relationship to General Tadeusz Kościuszko, serving as his orderly for many years and receiving a badge of honor for his exceptionally long service. Returning to his hometown of Stockbridge, Massachusetts, Hull became a landowner and a respected member of the community. He was a neighbor of Elizabeth Freeman, whose lawsuit against the state was a landmark victory for abolition.

This painted portrait closely follows the details of a daguerreotype of Hull, illustrated here, made in his later years. In his lifetime, Hull opted for photography, which would become a favored form of self-representation for African Americans in the decades to come.

This portrait is currently on view in the exhibition "Unnamed Figures: Black Presence and Absence in the Early American North," on view Tuesday-Sunday. Admission is free!

🎨 After a daguerreotype by Anson Clark (active mid-19th century), Agrippa Hull, Stockbridge, Massachusetts, c. 1848, Oil on canvas Stockbridge Library, Museum and Archives Collections, Massachusetts, 47.002.

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