Artist and Visionary: William Matthew Prior Revealed
In the May 9 issue, Sanford Schwartz writes, “This exhibition of the mid-nineteenth-century portraitist William Matthew Prior forms a quietly decisive refutation of the idea that antebellum American artists usually showed African-Americans in a trivializing and condescending manner. Prior (1806–1873) was white, and of the 1,500 or so portraits he made in his native Maine and later in the Boston area, less than a dozen are pictures of African-American, or mixed-race, adults and children. Five are in the current show, the first retrospective this artist has been given, and they turn out to be among the most engaging works on view. A few of them, especially an 1843 portrait of William Lawson, a black Boston clothing merchant, struck me as a good bit more than that.”
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