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A Visit from the Old Mistress

Winslow Homer American

Not on view

This landmark work from Homer’s Reconstruction-era period stands as one of the most compelling representations of race relations in nineteenth-century painting. In a frieze-like composition set in a murky interior, three Black freedwomen and a child appear in a tense encounter with the rigidly defined figure of an elderly White woman in widow’s black—presumably the onetime “mistress" who must now pay for their labor. In its powerful evocation of lingering conflicts and traumas—with women and slavery at its center—the painting resonates with other images inspired by the artist’s postwar visits to Virginia. Each offers a distinctive reflection on the future livelihoods of Black Americans.

A Visit from the Old Mistress, Winslow Homer (American, Boston, Massachusetts 1836–1910 Prouts Neck, Maine), Oil on canvas, American

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