After the abolition of serfdom and slavery, Russian and American artists created oil paintings of peasants and African Americans that revealed to viewers the complexity of their post-emancipation experiences. Russian painters from the Society of Traveling Art Exhibitions and American artists including Henry Ossawa Tanner, William Edouard Scott, and Winslow Homer created thematically similar works that depicted bondage, emancipation, military service, public schooling, and the urban environment. Their compositions shaped nineteenth-century viewers’ conceptions of freedpeople and peasants and molded Russians’ and Americans’ sense of national identity as the two countries reconstructed their societies during an era of substantial political and social reform.
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