Of particular significance was the extensive essay, "Robert S. Duncanson, Midwestern Romantic-Realist," published in Art in America (October 1951). Robert Duncanson (1821-1872) was a second generation Hudson River School painter, and his landscapes were highly sought after in his lifetime. Like the work of his predecessor, Joshua Johnson (ca. 1770-1830), they were often mistakenly said to be from the hand of a Euro-American artist. Porterís research proved that both men were of African ancestry. His writings were both historical and prophetic in that they revealed important elements of our cultural past while looking beyond the contours of time to announce the relevance of Black Studies long before the disciplines of this curriculum became fashionable. Porterís meticulous research and scholarly review of early newspapers, wills, and authentic documents from the nineteenth century redefined the role of slave artisans by showing how they provided countless creative services to the households of the Old South as well as the emerging communities of the industrial North.

     Perhaps even more important is the fact that Porterís research, much of which centered on the years of bondage, and the search into our creative past, has inspired scholars across racial lines to investigate the margins of history more thoroughly. Many of these same scholars have spoken with strong voices for justice and equity in the arts, revealing the need for a revisionist approach to the study of American art history.



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February 2001