Image credit: Courtesy, American American Society (catalog record #51845)
This lecture will be begin with Dr. Beach's talk followed by a brief Q&A . History of Art graduate students will then be invited to stay on for an informal conversation with Dr. Beach.
“Edmonia Lewis and the Poetics of Plaster”
In 1864, Edmonia Lewis modeled two small plaster sculptures depicting officers of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry, one of the first African American regiments of the American Civil War. The first was a tabletop statuette of one of the unit’s celebrated Black sergeants, William H. Carney, and the second was a bust of the regiment’s white colonel, Robert Gould Shaw. Though neither is known to survive today, they were widely seen and shown at Civil War soldiers’ fairs in the 1860s. This paper draws from period commentaries and images to consider Lewis’ mobilization of both sculptures in wartime relief efforts, arguing that their plaster materiality was central to their significance in this project. Aligning with contemporary associations of the medium with touch and handicraft on one hand, and healing and bodily renewal on the other, Lewis’ work probed the palliative possibilities of sculpture in the wake of war.
Caitlin Beach, Assistant Professor of Art History, Fordham University
Caitlin Beach’s research focuses on transatlantic histories of art in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Her work considers issues of race, visibility, and subject formation; the histories and consequences of enslavement and colonialism; the relationship between art and capitalism; and the materiality of sculpture. Her book project, Sculpture at the Ends of Slavery, critically interrogates the ways sculpture gave visual form to transatlantic discourses on abolition during the nineteenth century. It is under contract with the University of California Press as the recipient of the 2018 Phillips Collection / University of Maryland Book Prize. She is currently the Andrew W. Mellon Fellow at the department of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Please register for the meeting in advance at this link:
After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.
If you require accommodation such as live captioning or interpretation to participate in this event, please contact Allison Buenger at firstname.lastname@example.org. Requests made two weeks before the event will generally allow us to provide seamless access, but the university will make every effort to meet requests made after this date.