Art History

Back to Blog January 13, 2022

Dr. Erin Pauwels to speak in the Greenberg Steinhauser Forum in American Portraiture at the National Portrait Gallery

Author: Jane DeRose Evans
Alice Oates by Jose Maria Mora ca. 1880-1885

Dr. Pauwels will be presenting a virtual lecture, "José María Mora, Napoleon Sarony and the Migrant Surround in American Portrait Photography", Tuesday, Jan. 25, 2022 at 5 p.m. Registration is free, but required: 

This presentation considers how the spaces of photographic portrait studios were constructed to facilitate the performance of diverse American identities during the late nineteenth century. José María Mora, a Cuban-born U.S. photographer, and his mentor Napoleon Sarony, a native French speaker born in Quebec, rose to prominence during the Gilded Age for staging lush portrait tableaus that deployed hand-painted backdrops and richly theatrical studio effects. Conventionally, the vivid artifice of their work has been connected to the commercial excesses of the period. Deeper consideration both photographers’ immigrant status, however, helps illuminate how publicly circulated portraiture participated in the renegotiation of a national types at an historical moment when more than 12 million new arrivals to the United States were reinventing and revitalizing what it meant to be American.