Maurie D. McInnis Is Awarded the 24th Annual Eldredge Prize for Her Book about Abolitionist Art and the American Slave Trade

April 24, 2012
News Release

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The Smithsonian American Art Museum has awarded the Charles C. Eldredge Prize for Distinguished Scholarship in American Art to Maurie D. McInnis for her book Slaves Waiting for Sale: Abolitionist Art and the American Slave Trade (University of Chicago Press, 2011). Her book was recognized for its integration of art and cultural studies, tracing the American slave trade through the visual and written records of Eyre Crowe, a British artist who visited a slave auction in Richmond, Va., in 1853.

“It is particularly important that the jurors are honoring Maurie McInnis’s persuasive book about abolitionist art just as the nation is examining the legacy of the American Civil War 150 years later,” said Elizabeth Broun, The Margaret and Terry Stent Director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

The three jurors who awarded the $3,000 prize were Vivien Green Fryd, chair of the department of art history and professor of American art at Vanderbilt University; Elizabeth Johns, professor emerita at the University of Pennsylvania; and David Cateforis, professor of art history at the University of Kansas.

The jurors wrote “McInnis brilliantly reconstructs the world of slave traders, auctioneers, jails and holding cells, indicating how slavery was both woven into and hidden in the architectural and cultural fabric of southern cities. Her study of the red flag’s iconography—found in Crowe’s painting, “Slaves Waiting for Sale”—is especially compelling and new. This book is a model of visual analysis of specific images and their meanings within a historical context, of research into primary and secondary sources, and clarity in thought and argument.”

McInnis is professor of American art and material culture and associate dean for undergraduate academic programs in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Virginia. She received her doctorate from Yale University in 1996. Her primary research interests are in the cultural and social history of the American South in the 18th and 19th centuries. In addition to Slaves Waiting for Sale, she is the author of The Politics of Taste in Antebellum Charleston (University of North Carolina Press, 2005), which was awarded the 2007 Spiro Kostof Book Award from the Society of Architectural Historians. Her other publications include significant work on exhibitions and catalogs, including In Pursuit of Refinement: Charlestonians Abroad, 1740-1860 (University of South Carolina Press, 1998); Henry Benbridge, Charleston Portrait Painter (1743-1812) (Gibbes Museum of Art, 1999); and Landscape of Slavery: The Plantation in American Art (University of South Carolina Press, 2008). She recently published, with Louis Nelson, Shaping the Body Politic: Art and Political Formation in Early America (University of Virginia Press, 2010).

The Eldredge Prize, named in honor of the former director of the museum (1982-1988), is sponsored by the American Art Forum, a patrons’ support organization. This annual award, initiated in 1989, recognizes originality and thoroughness of research, excellence of writing and clarity of method. Single-author, book-length publications in the field of American art history appearing within the three previous calendar years are eligible. Dec. 1 is the deadline for next year’s nominations.

Recent Eldredge Prize recipients include Kristina Wilson (2011) for her book The Modern Eye: Stieglitz, MoMA, and the Art of Exhibition, 1925–1934 and Kirk Savage (2010) for his book Monument Wars: Washington, D.C., the National Mall, and the Transformation of the Memorial Landscape. A complete list of past winners is available online at americanart.si.edu/research/awards/eldredge.

The museum’s research programs include fellowships for pre- and postdoctoral scholars, extensive photographic collections documenting American art and artists and unparalleled art research databases. An active publications program of books, catalogs and the journal American Art complements the museum’s exhibitions and educational programs.

Eldredge Prize Lecture

McInnis will present the annual Eldredge Prize lecture in the museum’s McEvoy Auditorium Thursday, Oct. 18, at 4 p.m. A reception follows the event. The lecture and reception are free and open to the public.

About the Smithsonian American Art Museum

The Smithsonian American Art Museum celebrates the vision and creativity of Americans with artworks in all media spanning more than three centuries. Its National Historic Landmark building is located at Eighth and F streets N.W., above the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metrorail station. Museum hours are 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, except Dec. 25. Admission is free. Follow the museum on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, ArtBabble, iTunes and YouTube. Museum information (recorded): (202) 633-7970. Smithsonian Information: (202) 633-1000. Website: americanart.si.edu.

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