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Coleman 14

The South as a Sense of Place -- An Attack Against Racial Stereotypes

Among those artists who seemingly followed Booker T. Washington's admonition, "Cast down your buckets where you are", was Edwin M. Harleston (1882-1931). Born in Charleston, South Carolina, Harleston made his pilgrimage North to Harvard University and subsequently to the Boston Museum School. He spent some eight years at the Museum School and while there he developed into a deft draughtsman of the human figure and an accomplished painter in an academic realist style. After the death of his father, Harleston returned to South Carolina to run the family funeral home. There in the city of his birth, in 1922, Harleton opened a studio and worked diligently to faithfully present positive images of Black people. One very fine example is The Old Servant (1928). Writing in 1924, one author observed:

For the past eleven years Mr. Harleston has devoted his talents to a study of Colored people. To paint them not in cariacature [[caricature]], but with the classic technique and an exact portrayal of features and color, through shadow effects and a blending of colors; to make compositions in industry, religion, and social contact in the ambition of his life.

Along with Harleston, Isaac Hathaway (c.1874-c. 1970's) and William Arthur Cooper (1895 - c.1981) are two artists who reflected a dimension of the South as a sense of place through their portraiture. They were direct opposites in terms of background and training, yet Hathaway's and Cooper's art converge in their common interest in exploding the racial stereotypes that were frequently seen in the works of white artists.