Portraits from Virginia

I’m one of those people who doesn’t really “get” art but a new exhibition at the Alexandria Black History Museum got me thinking about some 19th century paintings I’ve read about.

The new exhibition “Style and Identity: Black Alexandria in the 1970s” features portraits by Horace Day. An American scene painter, Day (1909-1984), considered himself a regional painter and was most interested in scenes from the South. In the early 1970s, Day, a white American then living in Alexandria, painted portraits of African Americans from Alexandria as well as street scenes of their neighborhood. This exhibition of more than 30 of these works will be open through April 30, 2011.

Nearly a hundred years earlier, artists Winslow Homer (1836-1910) and Richard Norris Brooke (1847-1920) painted these scenes of African American families in Virginia, some of the earliest depictions of families living in freedom in their own homes. Homer, a native of Boston, painted A Visit from the Old Mistress in 1876.

Winslow Homer, A Visit from the Old Mistress, 1876. (oil on canvas 18 x 24 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.)

Brooke, who was born in Warrenton in Northern Virginia, painted A Pastoral Visit and A Dog Swap in 1881.

Richard Norris Brooke, A Pastoral Visit, 1881. (oil on canvas 47-3/4 x 65-3/4 in. Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.) http://www.corcoran.org/

Richard Norris Brooke, A Dog Swap, 1881 (oil on canvas 47 1/8 x 65 7/8 in. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.)


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