Untitled (Cracked Watermelon)

Charles Ethan Porter American

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 762

The largely Connecticut-based, New York- and Paris-trained Porter was among the first African American artists to exhibit his work nationally and the only one to specialize in still lifes. This is one of his largest and most impressive works. Its subject—originally an African gourd brought to the New World by seventeeth-century Spaniards and cultivated by colonists—is also significant. Porter chose to paint a watermelon, an earlier symbol of American abundance—and during the Civil War period one particularly associated with free Blacks—when it was increasingly defined by virulent stereotyping. By reclaiming the subject in artistic terms, Porter challenged a contemporary racist trope.

Untitled (Cracked Watermelon), Charles Ethan Porter (1847–1923), Oil on canvas, American

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