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Arts of North America

Art created in North America includes objects made by native cultures of the present-day United States and Canada; paintings and decorative arts produced during colonial times; 18th- and 19th-century masterpieces; and the work of contemporary artists and photographers.

Engraved by Alfred Jones, after Richard Caton Woodville
American, born England, 1819 - 1900
Mexican News
c. 1851, New York
Hand-colored engraving on wove paper

Image: 20 5/8 x 18 3/8 inches
Sheet: 25 3/4 x 22 15/16 inches
Frame: 26 3/4 x 29 1/2 inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

The Bayou Bend Collection, Museum purchase funded by Louis K. Adler in honor of Meredith J. Long, in celebration of the North American Free Trade Agreement, at "One Great Night in November, 1993"

Arts of North America

The print Mexican News, which copied a painting by Richard Caton Woodville, highlights the importance of slavery to Americans in the 1800s. Exhibited in 1848, this image shows the moment when America’s victory in the recent Mexican-American War was the most important news of the day.

Although America’s victory was to be the fulfillment of Manifest Destiny—the concept that the United States was destined to spread its ideas and laws across all of North America—the real issue that arose after the war was how to handle slavery in newly acquired American states such as Texas. Woodville suggests this by showing two black figures in the lower right-hand corner. A young African American girl stands in rags next to an older field hand (likely her father), both of whom eagerly listen for news of slavery’s destiny. The father’s face appears anxious yet hopeful, and his daughter’s appearance evokes sympathy from the viewer.

These two figures, as well as the bonneted woman above them, stand outside of the shelter of the American Hotel’s porch. This literal exclusion of these individuals from the porch’s shelter is a metaphor for their exclusion from public and political life before the Civil War. 

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