Richard Norris Brooke
A Pastoral Visit, 1881
Oil on canvas
47 x 65 13/16 in. (119.38 x 167.16 cm)
Corcoran Collection (Museum Purchase, Gallery Fund) 2014.136.119
Image Courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington


In this painting by Richard Norris Brooke, a family is shown in their modest but comfortable home hosting their elderly pastor for Sunday dinner. This was a common event in both black and white rural communities unable to afford a parsonage. After sharing a meal, the family provided the pastor with the congregation’s weekly offering, which is presumably contained inside the cigar box. Considerable social shifts occurring during the Reconstruction Era, which gave African Americans the right to citizenship as well as other Constitutional protections, sparked debates and widespread interest in African American life. Unlike the representations of some of his peers, which tended towards vulgar exaggeration or caricature, Brooke was especially known for his sympathetic and dignified portrayal of African American subjects. This picture celebrates the themes of strong spiritual values and the wholesomeness of family.
Select facts derived from the collection object page: A Pastoral Visit; Sarah Cash ed., Corcoran Gallery of Art. (Corcoran Gallery of Art: Washington, D.C., 2012).


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