Magazine article School Arts

Global Pursuits: The Underground Railroad

Magazine article School Arts

Global Pursuits: The Underground Railroad

Article excerpt

Charles T Webber (1825-1911). The Underground Railroad, 1893. Oil on canvas, 52 3/16 x 76 1/8" (135 x 193 cm). Subscription Fund Purchase, 1927.26.

About the Art

The subject of this painting is the Underground Railroad, which today has become an American legend. The Underground Railroad was not a systematic means of transportation, but rather a secretive process that allowed fugitive slaves to escape from oppression in the years prior to the Civil War.

There are three identifiable figures in this painting: Levi Coffin (1798-1877), his wife Catherine (1803-1881), and Hannah Haydock (dates unknown), all of whom were friends of Charles T. Webber, the artist who painted this work. The Coffins were legendary in helping runaway slaves escape to freedom in the North, and Levi is often referred to as the "President" of the Underground Railroad.

About the Artist

Charles T. Webber was born in Cayuga County, New York, in 1825. Although he was very interested in art at a young age, he never received any formal training. By 1844, Webber was living in Springfield, Ohio, about seventy-five miles northwest of Cincinnati. While there, he was befriended by the artist John Peter Frankenstein (1817-1881), who was apparently Webber's first and only teacher in the field of painting. During the mid-1850s, Webber began painting portraits and teaching students of his own.

In 1858, Webber moved to Covington, Kentucky, just across the Ohio River from Cincinnati. …

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