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.
Sheet: 15 1/4 x 18 3/8 inches
The Bayou Bend Collection, gift of Miss Ima HoggArts of North America
In this image of a leisurely fishing party, a black servant dressed in an ornate gold and gray suit hands an object to a smiling young man. The party takes place in the right half of the frame, while the African American servant remains in the boat to unload goods and help the guests. The black man is not the center of the image, but he is fundamental to the success of the party. The image reflects his position in society.
Black servants or slaves were rarely the center of art in England or its American colonies before the 19th century. (See also The Washington Family.) Their presence on the edge of a painting indicates their use as props to demonstrate the wealth of the whites at the picture’s center. It also reflects the status of African-descended people in both England and the British North American colonies. While their work was crucial to the functioning of society, they were unable to enjoy the pleasures of that society.
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