Shannon Egan, Gettysburg College
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The preface to the original edition of Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War, published in 1866 by Alfred H. Guernsey and Henry M. Alden asserts, “We proposed at the outset to narrate events just as they occurred; … to praise no man unduly because he strove for the right, to malign no man because he strove for the wrong." The suite of lithographs on display at Schmucker Art Gallery by prominent contemporary African-American artist Kara Walker entitled Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated), on loan from the Middlebury College Museum of Art, challenges the truth Guernsey and Alden claimed to recount and inject a discourse about rightness and wrongness the authors professed to omit. Walker’s silhouettes of distorted, fragmented and flailing black bodies are silkscreened over an enlargement, using offset lithography of woodcut plates, of the original Harper’s prints published in Guernsey and Alden’s text to incorporate a new understanding of suffering, loss and horror absent from the nineteenth- century illustrations. [excerpt]
Schmucker Art Gallery, Gettysburg College
Kara Walker, Harper's Weekly, Civil War, black body, racist pathology
Egan, Shannon, "Kara Walker: Harper's Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated)" (2013). Schmucker Art Catalogs. 2.