Maurie D. McInnis
Professor, American art and American Studies, University of Virginia
Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, University of Virginia
Maurie McInnis’s main research interest is in the cultural history of American Art in the colonial and antebellum South. Her work has focused on the relationship between art and politics in early America, especially focused on the politics of slavery. Her most recent book, Slaves Waiting for Sale: Abolitionist Art and the American Slave Trade (University of Chicago in 2011) was awarded the Charles C. Eldredge Book Prize from the Smithsonian American Art Museum for outstanding scholarship in American Art and the Library of Virginia Literary Award for non-fiction. The book revolves around a series of images about the American slave trade. In 1853, Eyre Crowe, a young British artist, visited a slave auction in Richmond, Virginia. Harrowed by what he witnessed, he captured the scene in sketches that he would later develop into a series of illustrations and paintings, including the culminating painting, Slaves Waiting for Sale, Richmond, Virginia. This book uses Crowe’s paintings to explore the texture of the slave trade in Richmond, Charleston, and New Orleans, the evolving iconography of abolitionist art, and the role of visual culture in the transatlantic world of abolitionism. The book traces Crowe’s trajectory from Richmond across the American South and back to London–where his paintings were exhibited just a few weeks after the start of the Civil War. It explores not only how his abolitionist art was inspired and made, but also how it influenced the international public’s grasp of slavery in America.
Expanding on the material she discussed in the book, McInnis curated “To Be Sold: Virginia and the American Slave Trade” at the Library of Virginia (Oct. 2014-May 2015). This show was the first major exhibition to present to the public the story of Virginia’s role in the forced migration of nearly a million enslaved people during the antebellum period. This exhibition was the most visited one in the history of the Library of Virginia.
Her current work is focused on telling the history of enslavement at the University of Virginia. Along with Kirt von Daacke, she founded the JUEL project (Jefferson’s University—the Early Life project), a digital archive for uncovering the early lived history of the University of Virginia.
Other essays have focused on the politics of representing political figures. Essays on “Revisiting Cincinnatus: Houdon’s George Washington,” and “George Washington: Cincinnatus or Marcus Aurelius,” have focused on sculptural representation of Washington and “The Most Famous Plantation of All: The Politics of Painting Mount Vernon,” centered on the numerous painted representations of Washington’s plantation during the 1850s. Forthcoming in a new volume from Yale University Press, is an essay on Richmond’s equestrian monuments: “ ‘To Strike Terror’: Equestrian Monuments and Southern Power.”
Much of her early work was focused on the material culture of Charleston including the exhibition catalogue, In Pursuit of Refinement: Charlestonians Abroad, 1740-1860 (1999) and the book, The Politics of Taste in Antebellum Charleston(2005) which won the George C. Rogers Jr. award from the South Carolina Historical Society and the Spiro Kostof Book Award from the Society of Architectural Historians. Essays on topics ranging from colonial portraiture to neoclassical furniture have appeared in Winterthur Portfolio, American Furniture, American Art, and Historical Archaeology.
Dr. McInnis teaches several large undergraduate lecture courses including a survey of American Art from the colonial period through 1945, and (with Louis Nelson) the multi-discinplinary “Arts and Cultures of the Slave South.” Her undergraduate and graduate seminars often engage questions of material culture method, or American constructions of race (“Race and Place in American Art”), or American constructions of regional identity (“Imagining America’s Wests” and “The Old South in Myth and Memory.”) She also regularly teaches a first-year advising seminar (UVA, Jefferson and Slavery). She has served in an advisory capacity to the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts, Montpelier, Monticello, and the Historic New Orleans Collection. Currently, she also serves as the Vice-Provost for Academic Affairs