Discovering Duncanson and African American Material Culture

December 6, 2019



Join us for a study day focused on Robert S. Duncanson, the foremost African American landscape painter of the 19th century. Inspired by Winterthur’s recent acquisition of Duncanson’s Landscape in the Smoky Mountains, Tennessee. The day will include lectures, conversations, and specially curated collection displays. Register online or by calling 800.448.3883. Members $15. Nonmembers $25. Students (with student ID) Free.


Who Was Robert S. Duncanson?

Born in 1821 in Fayette, New York, Robert Seldon Duncanson was widely acclaimed by antebellum art critics as the best landscape painter in the West and the first African American artist to gain international recognition. He grew up in a family of carpenters and painters in Monroe, Michigan, and after apprenticing in the family trade, formed his own firm of painters and glaziers and moved to Cincinnati to become an artist. A city at the crossroads of major East and West transportation routes and on the border between the North and the South, Cincinnati was then becoming a leading economic and cultural center west of the Appalachian Mountains. The burgeoning city would produce some of the most important artistic and cultural figures of the time, including Hiram Powers, Lilly Martin Spencer, and Harriet Beecher Stowe. In spite of Ohio’s Black Laws, pervasive racial discrimination, and racial violence, it was a stronghold of abolitionism and became home to a short-lived but thriving African American community attracted by the opportunities it offered. Duncanson’s career was an integral part of the community’s story. For more information, download the brochure.


10:00 am: Registration and Welcome

10:15–10:45 am: “Discovering Landscape in the Smoky Mountains, Tennessee, by Robert S. Duncanson,” with Dr. Stephanie Delamaire, Associate Curator, Fine Arts, Winterthur

10:45–11:30 am: “Robert S. Duncanson’s Underground Railroad: A Migration in Oil on Canvas,” with Dr. Martha Jones, Society of Black Alumni Presidential Professor and Professor of History, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore

11:30 am–2:00 pm: Lunch break and free time to visit Winterthur’s galleries and library to see specially curated displays

2:00–2:45 pm: Roundtable and Conversation with Emerging Scholars of African American Art and Material Culture, including Kelli Racine Coles, Doctoral Student, University of Delaware; Dr. Tiffany Momon, Sewanee: The University of the South; and Jill Vaum, PhD Program, University of Pennsylvania. Roundtable will be moderated by Dr. Catharine Dann Roeber, Winterthur.

3:00–3:45 pm: “Debating Duncanson: Contexts and Controversies,” with Dr. Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw, Associate Professor of History of Art, University of Pennsylvania


*Image at top: : Landscape in the Smoky Mountains, Tennessee, by Robert S. Duncanson.



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