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Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War

Using her iconic cut-paper silhouettes, Kara Walker turns her eye towards reinterpreting and enlarging Harpers Pictorial History of the Civil War.

Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War (Annotated), 2005

Offset lithography/silkscreen
Set of 14 prints, Edition 26 of 35

Enlarging Harper’s Pictorial History of the Civil War, first published in 1866, Walker overlaid each lithograph to reinterpret this famous document of American history. “These prints,” Walker explains, “are the landscapes that I imagine exist in the back of my somewhat more austere wall pieces.” Walker uses a variety of strategies to break in, cover over, or otherwise intervene within the narrative of the woodcuts, changing the images original dramatic purposes in favor of her own invention. Walker’s silhouettes interrupt Union maneuvers as often as Confederate ones, as if no matter which side wins, there will be suffering.

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“An innovative concept with strong execution and prompt and enthusiastic service.”
– Pableaux Johnson, New York Times

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