The Quadroon

George Fuller American

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 774

This painting retains its original title, The Quadroon, which is a demeaning term for a person of one-quarter Black descent used in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. During an 1850 tour of the South, Massachusetts-born artist George Fuller witnessed a mixed-race woman being sold at auction in Augusta, Georgia. The woman left a strong impression upon Fuller, who wrote in a January 26 letter, "Who is this girl with eyes large and black? … She is under thy feet, white man. … Is she not your sister?" Fuller became a critical observer of Southern Black life in the 1850s, before taking a seventeen-year hiatus from art to care for his family after his father’s death. In 1876, he returned to painting full-time and created a series of Southern scenes, including this one. The depiction of the enigmatic woman, with large dark eyes that had captivated Fuller decades earlier, is inspired by French pastoral imagery if particularized in an American context. In the background, three figures toil in a field, evoking the harsh realities of chattel slavery in the pre-Civil War United States.

The Quadroon, George Fuller (American, Deerfield, Massachusetts 1822–1884 Brookline, Massachusetts), Oil on canvas, American

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