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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.

Paul Revere, Jr.
American, 1734 - 1818
The Bloody Massacre
1770, Boston, Suffolk County, Massachusetts
hHed line engraving and etching on laid paper

Plate: 10 3/8 x 8 7/8 inches; Sheet: 10 3/8 x 9 1/4 inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

The Bayou Bend Collection, Museum purchase funded by the Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation

Arts of North America

This iconic image of the Boston Massacre by Paul Revere sparked fury in both Americans and the British by portraying the redcoats as brutal slaughterers and the onlookers as helpless victims.

The first casualty of this incident was Crispus Attucks, a runaway slave and merchant seaman of Native American and African descent. In this well-worn copy of Revere’s The Bloody Massacre, Attucks cannot be identified. Did Revere intentionally de-emphasize Attucks’s color, or was it a coincidence? What does the absence of Attucks’s identity as African American mean?

Only in some copies of the engraving is Attucks visible in the left corner, shot dead with blood gushing from his wounds. His darker skin tone and curly black hair distinguish him from others, yet he is certainly not at the center of the action. As is the case with many other pieces of European art from the 1400s–1800s, the black person appears on the edge of an image. See also The Fishing Party and The Washington Family.

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