Peter Schneck - Tuesday Night Talk: Brown Madonnas, Red Mothers, and the 'New Negro' from Germany

July 5, 2012

The rich images and religious iconography created by artists in the Harlem Renaissance were a watershed for African-American aesthetics, pushing the struggle for political and social equality into a cultural movement that was deeply concerned with self-representation and spirituality. Artists like Aaron Douglas, Jacob Lawrence and others looked to both modernism and west-African folk traditions for creating new art that could be distinctly African and American. It is less well known how several key images that circulated in the Harlem Renaissance were made by a German  painter, Walter von Ruckteschell (1882-1941), based on his experience in colonial German East Africa  during WW I. This talk explores the fascinating transatlantic story of how African portraits and sketches by this German colonial army officer in present-day Tanzania ended up becoming seminal representations of the American “new negro” in the Harlem Renaissance. Co-sponsored by the Art & Religion PhD Program at the Graduate Theological Union and CARE (the Center forArts, Religion, and Education).

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