Alastair Wright: Alastair Wright is Head of the History of Art Department and Tutorial Fellow in Art History at St John’s College, Oxford.
Regarding the Portrait: The Primers
In this four-part lecture series, Professor Amy Mooney examines the central role portraiture played in fostering social change in the United States from the 1890s through the 1950s. Drawing from her forthcoming book, Portraits of Noteworthy Character, Professor Mooney considers the strategic visual campaigns generated by individuals and social institutions that used the portrait to advance their progressive political ideologies. From the etiquette texts used at historically black colleges to the post cards produced by Hull House to the Harmon Foundation’s exhibition of “Portraits of Outstanding Americans of Negro Origin,” this series explores the ways in which the portrait was employed to build social relationships and negotiate modern subjectivity.
This lecture examines the factors that influenced the development of pedagogical strategies for reading and realizing the portrait as conceived for students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities during the post-bellum era. Through engravings illustrating etiquette books and early photography, Professor Mooney traces the precedents for the ideological situating of black subjectivity within the politics of respectability that later inform the rhetorical trope of the New Negro.