The Planter's Prospect: Privilege & Slavery in Plantation Paintings

By O'Brien, Greg | Southern Quarterly, Winter 2003 | Go to article overview

The Planter's Prospect: Privilege & Slavery in Plantation Paintings


O'Brien, Greg, Southern Quarterly


The Planter's Prospect: Privilege & Slavery in Plantation Paintings. By John Michael Vlach. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2002. x, 216 pp. + illustrations, notes, index. $49.95, $24.95 paper.

To this day, painted images of antebellum southern plantations and mansions mold the minds of southerners. Even outside the South, the dominant symbol of all things southern is often the columned white plantation house surrounded by moss-draped oaks and fertile fields. Continuously reprinted and re-romanticized, the images of plantations can be bought nearly everywhere in the South, especially in areas like Natchez, New Orleans, Mobile, Savannah, and Charleston where the effort to preserve these architecturally significant buildings has been in full-swing since the early twentieth century. Images such as these are also found in history textbooks, usually in the form of paintings, where they are used to depict discussions of slavery, the antebellum South, or the Civil War. Until now, few scholars have thought to ask in what ways these paintings are misleading and why, who painted them, and what can we learn from studying such objects. John Michael Vlach, a George Washington University professor of American Studies and anthropology, tackles these issues in an intriguing, readable, lavishly-illustrated, and important study of plantation paintings.

Vlach builds upon his earlier work, In Back of the Big House: The Architecture of Plantation Slavery (1993), focusing this time on the landscape perspectives of southern artists from the eighteenth to the twentieth century. This book features eight chapters, the middle six of which follow chronologically and look in detail at the work of six particular artists: Francis Guy, Charles Fraser, Adrien Persac, Frances Flora Bond Palmer and the firm of Currier & Ives, William Aiken Walker, and Alice Ravenel Huger Smith. Together, they painted plantation scenes from Maryland to Georgia to Louisiana. Vlach offers a biographical sketch of each artist and analyzes their lives for clues to their motivations in portraying plantations the way they did. Although they employed different styles and came from a variety of backgrounds (though all are white), Vlach discerns significant changes in the portrayal of plantation scenes from the antebellum to the postbellum periods, especially in the way the paintings depicted slavery and enslaved peoples.

Vlach writes that he "became keenly aware of the statements of power encoded in plantation landscapes" (1) painted before the Civil War as the viewer's gaze was invariably directed upward to the mansion home from a point some distance away. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Planter's Prospect: Privilege & Slavery in Plantation Paintings
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.