Reading the Scriptures

Thomas Waterman Wood American

Not on view

The Vermont-born Wood began his career as a portraitist, but made his reputation as a genre painter of scenes of New England life and African American subjects—an interest dating from his time working in Nashville, Tennessee, and Louisville, Kentucky. Returning to New York at the close of the Civil War, he began to produce character types in both oil and watercolor, such as this depiction of an elderly Black man reading the Bible. Painted in the final years of Reconstruction, the mixed-media drawing focuses on the urgent issue of education for the recently emancipated. Following the war, the formerly enslaved of every age pursued the opportunity to become literate, a skill previously denied them by law. In his reference to scripture, Wood may be evoking the many Black and White teachers and missionaries from the North and South who led these efforts, associating education with Christian virtue.

Reading the Scriptures, Thomas Waterman Wood (American, Montpelier, Vermont 1823–1903 New York), Watercolor, gouache, and graphite on light tan wove paper, American

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