Tracing Slavery: I

Moses Williams: Silhouettes

Tracing Slavery considers issues of racism and the African American experience through the simple, yet direct medium of cut-paper profiles, or silhouettes. Moses Williams (c. 1775–c. 1825) was born enslaved into the household of Charles Willson Peale, the early-American portraitist, naturalist, and museum founder. Williams worked in Peale’s home and fledgling museum in Philadelphia, where he cut portrait silhouettes of visitors to the museum. The majority of his portraits represent members of the white elite, some of whom were slave holders. 

This exhibition draws together silhouette imagery by Moses Williams with prints by contremporary artist, Kara Walker as a way to trace a profile of racism in American that continues to shape the present.

This is one in a series of American art exhibitions created through a multi-year, multi-institutional partnership formed by the Philadelphia Museum of Art as part of the Art Bridges Initiative.

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