Kara Walker: Harper's Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated)

From January–April 2020, the New Britain Museum of American Art will present Kara Walker: Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated), an exhibition of particular significance for the NBMAA. Marking the debut of the Museum’s recent acquisition of Walker’s 2005 print series Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated), the exhibition also launches the Museum’s 2020 initiative, in which all exhibitions will be dedicated to female artists, in honor of the centennial of women’s suffrage in America.

Throughout her career, Walker has addressed race, gender, and identity in her work, as well as the representation of African Americans from historical to contemporary times. She has frequently returned to the subject of the Civil War in works that reveal the exploitation and violence experienced by African Americans during that era. In 2005, Walker worked in collaboration with the LeRoy Neiman Center for Print Studies, New York, to produce Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated), a portfolio of 15 prints that considers experiences of racism toward African Americans that were absent or only alluded to in historical representations of the Civil War. Each print in the portfolio is an enlargement of a woodcut plate from Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War (Chicago, 1862), overlaid with Walker’s silkscreen cutout figures rendered in solid black silhouette. At the NBMAA, this series will be presented in concert with original Harper’s engravings of the Civil War by Winslow Homer, drawn from the Museum’s permanent collection. This juxtaposition will illuminate distinctions in historical and contemporary perspectives on American events.