The Changing View of Slavery

Justus Engelhardt Kuhn and Robert S. Duncanson held respected reputations for their artistic abilities.Kuhn was thefirst Maryland portrait painter, of German descent from the Rhine Valley who continued his painting until his death in November 1717.Duncanson was a pre-Civil War African-American painter widely recognized as one of the great landscape artists.Given the time period and background of the two artists, one can expect their artwork to also differ in style, content, and meaning.Kuhn's Henry Darnall III as a Child and Duncanson's Uncle Tom and Little Eva appropriately reflect society's different and changing views towards slavery during each of the artists time periods.

Thefirst stark difference that stands out about the paintings certainly has to be the setting.Despite the fact that both paintings contain some form of a master and a slave, the setting certainly is different.Kuhn's painting is set on a balcony with a balustrade behind the child along with formal gardens and pavilions behind that are complete fictions.

During that time period, no properties in America looked like this. Kuhn was meeting the illusory desire of Colonial gentry to seem like important extensions of European culture (Pohl 65). This type of grandeur did not begin to be realized for another century or so, when Americans were actually able to accumulate wealth comparable to Europe.These types of "aristocratic pretensions" (Pohl 65) made it seem appropriate that there would also be a strict division of class during the time.

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With such a class difference, one can deduce that servitude or some form of slavery would also be accepted during the time period.This argument is validated by the fact that the slave population was growing dramatically during thefirst half of the 18th century when the number of slaves rose from 15,000 to 100,000 (Pohl 64).
The setting for Duncanson's painting is sligh…

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