African American Artists before the Twentieth Century
Edward Mitchell Bannister, Newspaper Boy (1869). Courtesy of Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C. / Art Resource, NY
Though Bannister is primarily known for his idyllic and evocative images of rural landscapes, Newspaper Boy (1869) remains one of the painter's most familiar and much-admired works. The delicately rendered and sensitive, though undeniably savvy and streetwise, portrait probably represents one of the familiar faces from Bannister's adopted city of Boston, where Bannister had once worked as a hairdresser and had married the famous wigmaker and hairdresser, Christiana Cartreaux, a Narragansett Indian. Some observers have wondered whether the image of the racially ambiguous child depicted in Newspaper Boy might represent one of Bannister's only attempts to confront directly issues of racial identity.