Oxford AASC: Photo Essay

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PHOTO ESSAY

The Underground Railroad

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The Underground Railroad

Courtesy of the Granger Collection, New York

Even though Ohio artist Charles T. Webber typically has not been associated with the abolitionist movement, his painting The Underground Railroad has been retroactively lionized as a grand commemoration of the enterprise. Webber created the painting for the World's Columbian Exposition (the Chicago World's Fair) in 1893; presumably Webber supported the work of his friends Levi and Catharine Coffin—the couple's Cincinnati farmstead is believed to be depicted in The Underground Railroad—but his previous works did not broach such loaded themes. The painting, a dramatic portrayal of escaped slaves braving exhaustion and snow, helped add to the mythology of the Underground Railroad that would, rightly or wrongly, come to define it in future years. So celebrated was The Underground Railroad that even though Webber's career included being Cincinnati's senior artist-in-residence and multiple exhibitions in Paris, Webber is known most for this painting.

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