|PODCAST: WYETH LECTURE IN AMERICAN ART|
Recorded on November 4, 2009, this podcast presents the fourth Wyeth Lecture in American Art, a biennial event hosted by the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts and supported by the Wyeth Foundation for American Art. Richard J. Powell focuses on Thomas Eakins (1844–1916) as uniquely empathetic among the many 19th-century artists who depicted African American performance and entertainment. Eakins’s Negro Boy Dancing (1887; Metropolitan Museum of Art) shows a young banjo player, an elderly teacher, and an adolescent dancer, evoking the American rage for the form of musical theater known as minstrelsy. Eakins’s watercolor, along with two oil-on-canvas studies at the National Gallery of Art, challenged the tendency of minstrelsy to employ racial ridicule and physical exaggeration. Instead, Powell argues, Eakins adhered to a painterly realism as well as his own brand of empathy and ethics.
Thomas Eakins, Study for “Negro Boy Dancing”: The Boy, probably 1877, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Washington
Richard J. Powell is the John Spencer Bassett Professor of art and art history and professor of African and African American studies at Duke University. He received his BA from Morehouse College; an MFA from Howard University (1977); and an MA (1982) in Afro-American studies, an MPhil (1984), and a PhD (1988) in history of art, all from Yale University. He has taught at University of Hartford (1982), Middlebury College (1986), and at Duke University, where he was appointed assistant professor (1989–1992), associate professor (1992–1998), and full professor (1998– ). In addition, he has served as guest curator and consultant at the Field Museum of Natural History (1983–1984) and director of programs at the Washington Project for the Arts (1987–1989). His honors and awards include the Ednah Root Visiting Curatorship in American Art, de Young Museum, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco (1994); a Du Bois Institute for Afro-American Research fellowship, Harvard University (1992–1993); and a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for University Teachers (1992–1993). He recently completed his tenure as editor in chief of The Art Bulletin (2007–2010).
Professor Powell’s books include Cutting a Figure: Fashioning Black Portraiture (2008), Black Art: A Cultural History (2002; revised and expanded edition of Black Art and Culture in the 20th Century ), Jacob Lawrence (1992), and Homecoming: The Art and Life of William H. Johnson (1991). In addition, he has organized numerous exhibitions for which he has written catalogues, such as Circle Dance: The Art of John T. Scott (2005), Beauford Delaney: The Color Yellow (2002), To Conserve a Legacy: American Art from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (1999), Rhapsodies in Black: Art of the Harlem Renaissance (1997), The Blues Aesthetic: Black Culture and Modernism (1989), From the Potomac to the Anacostia: Art and Ideology in the Washington Area (1989), and James Lesesne Wells: Sixty Years in Art (1986).