Category: Visual Arts

PRIMARY DOCUMENT

“Sketches in the Free and Slave States of America” by Eyre Crowe (September 27, 1856)

In “Sketches in the Free and Slave States of America,” published on September 27, 1856, in the Illustrated London News, Eyre Crowe describes his travels in the United States with the novelist William Makepeace Thackeray in 1852 and 1853. Paying special attention to the differences between the cultures of free and slave states, the article also includes illustrations by Crowe, including Slaves Waiting for Sale, Virginia, which Crowe would later paint.

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Burial of Latané, The

The Burial of Latané was one of the most famous Lost Cause images of the American Civil War (1861–1865). Painted by Virginian William D. Washington in Richmond in 1864, the work shows white women, slaves, and children performing the burial service of a cavalry officer killed during J. E. B. Stuart‘s famous ride around Union general George B. McClellan‘s army during the Peninsula Campaign in 1862. The incident first inspired a poem and then the painting, which became a powerful symbol of Confederate women‘s devotion to the Confederate cause.

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Biggs, Walter J. (1886–1968)

Walter J. Biggs enjoyed success as a popular illustrator for most of his career, and then became an accomplished painter later in life. Growing up in Salem, he attended the New York School of Art (later Parsons The New School for Design) early in the 1900s. His romantic, impressionistic-style works soon began appearing on the covers of major magazines of the period, as well as in books. Biggs won praise for his renderings of the American South, particularly for sympathetic portrayals of African American life. He started working with watercolors in the 1940s, developing a national reputation with competition prizes and exhibitions in New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia. He returned to Salem permanently after retiring as an illustrator late in the 1950s. In 1963 he was inducted into the Society of Illustrators’ Hall of Fame and died five years later in Roanoke. In 1986 Roanoke College, which owns a large collection of Biggs’s paintings and sketchbooks, dedicated the Walter Biggs Studio in the Olin Hall Student Art Center.

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Bridges, Charles (bap. 1672–1747)

Charles Bridges was the first documented painter to live and work in Virginia and to produce work of good quality. Born to a gentry family in Northamptonshire, England, Bridges settled in London, where he may have trained as a painter and begun a career as a portraitist. After his wife’s death, he moved to Williamsburg with his children in 1735. More than two dozen portraits of Virginians are attributable to Bridges, including members of the Blair, Bolling, Carter, Custis, Grymes, Lee, Ludwell, Moore, Page, and Randolph families. He returned to England about 1744 and died in Northamptonshire in December 1747.

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Brown, George O. (1852–1910)

George O. Brown established a family-run photography studio that recorded African American life in Richmond for seventy years. Brown, probably born enslaved, was working in the photography business by age nineteen old. He opened his own studio in 1899 and moved it to Jackson Ward, the center of Richmond’s African American community, in 1905. Two years later his skills earned him a silver medal at the Jamestown Ter-Centennial Exposition. Along with his children, Brown became the most important visual chronicler of Richmond’s African American population, documenting community life at schools, colleges, sporting events, and fraternal meetings. The studio took thousands of portraits of ordinary citizens and famed figures such as Maggie Lena Walker and Bill “Bojangles” Robinson. Brown died in 1910, but his photography business continued to operate until 1969.

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Carpenter, Miles B. (1889–1985)

Miles B. Carpenter was a prominent twentieth-century folk artist. In 1912 Carpenter purchased a factory in the Sussex County town of Waverly, which he turned into a lumber mill. He later added a sawmill and ice business to his enterprise. Carpenter began woodcarving in 1941 but had little time to spend on his work until he closed his lumber mill in the 1950s. The artist began sculpting animals and then people, utilizing both whittling and assemblage. By the 1970s Carpenter’s work drew the attention of collectors, and he began exhibiting his works in one-man shows. His autobiography Cutting the Mustard was published in 1982.

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Chrysler Museum of Art

The Chrysler Museum of Art is a fine arts museum located along the banks of the Hague in the Ghent district of Norfolk. The museum is modeled in Italian Renaissance style and boasts more than 30,000 pieces of art by a vast array of renowned artists covering many regions and time periods. Greatly expanded by a gift from the art collector Walter P. Chrysler (1909–1988) in 1971, the museum contains one of the world’s largest collections of Tiffany glass.

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Clark, Adèle (1882–1983)

Adèle Clark was a founding member of the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia, the chair of the Virginia League of Women Voters (1921–1925, 1929–1944), the social director of women at the College of William and Mary (1926), a New Deal–era field worker, and an accomplished artist and arts advocate. A native of Alabama, Clark attended schools in Richmond and later studied art in New York. She taught art in Richmond and established a training studio, while also working as a political activist. In 1909, she helped to found the Equal Suffrage League of Virginia and when women won the right to vote in 1920, she worked to educate women voters and to influence Congress and the General Assembly on issues of special interest to women. During the Great Depression, she served as the state director of the Federal Art Project (1936–1942). In her later years, Clark spoke for the desegregation of public schools and against the poll tax. She opposed the proposed Equal Rights Amendment in 1973. Clark died in Richmond in 1983.

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Cootes, F. Graham (1879–1960)

F. Graham Cootes was a popular illustrator and portraitist during in the twentieth century. Born in Staunton and educated at the University of Virginia, he entered the New York School of Art (later Parsons The New School for Design) in 1902. Cootes opened a Manhattan studio by 1906 and gained success as an illustrator for best-selling books and high-profile magazines. Cootes also established himself as a respected portraitist of prominent figures in New York and Washington, D.C. He semi-retired during the 1920s only to reemerge the following decade after he and his wife lost much of their wealth in the stock market crash. During this second period he produced his most famous work, the official White House portrait of Woodrow Wilson. Cootes kept his connections with his native state, painting portraits of Charlottesville residents, hosting summer art school programs at the University of Virginia, and visiting the Old Dominion often.

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