Ruth Starr Rose (1887-1965): Revelations of African American Life in Maryland and the World


Moaney Boy On The Stairs ©2015 The estate of Ruth Starr Rose


Brown Capital Management presents

October 10, 2015 – April 3, 2016

This first comprehensive show of artist Ruth Starr Rose (1887-1965) offers a rare glimpse into African American life at the turn of the century on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Many of the subjects are descendants of Frederick Douglass and Harriet Ross Tubman. From the area's most noted black sail maker, to professional female crab pickers, to heroic soldiers, the portraits speak of self-possessed people who were proud of their station in life. Rose's subjects are portrayed with a dignity and compassion that is rarely seen during this period of art history. For this reason, the work also offers a historical record of daily African American life on the Eastern Shore. The exhibition includes visual depictions of military servicemen, and portraits of Native Americans and Haitians that Rose befriended on her travels.

Her illustrations of spirituals, some of which are on view here, are said to be the most comprehensive visual interpretation of Negro spirituals to appear in the United States, according to Professor James A. Porter, the undisputed father of African American art history. Rose is also believed to be the first white artist to produce a work of art for a black church.

Part of the exhibition is archival material highlighting Rose’s correspondence and association with other 20th century artists, writers, and luminaries such as Paul Robeson, Orson Welles, and Julia Mood Peterkin.

While Rose exhibited during her lifetime at institutions including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, she remains in obscurity. This first comprehensive show brings unseen content to light, giving visitors a new chance to know this courageous woman. The artist boldly disregarded norms for her gender and white upper class background to chronicle black life. Her work serves as a starting point for creative inquiry about art’s ability to connect individuals across the color lines.

About the Guest Curator

The work of Barbara Paca, the guest exhibition curator, is enriched by her unique achievements in two different yet complementary worlds. As an art historian, her credentials are numerous, including a PhD from Princeton University, a Fulbright Scholarship to study in Ireland, and a postdoctoral fellowship at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study. As a creative designer, Paca holds a five year professional degree in landscape architecture and owns a flourishing private practice in Manhattan. Recognized for artistically merging the academic with the natural world, Paca’s designs can be found on some of the world’s most exquisite properties. It is in these environments that she has encountered the work and fascinating, unlikely stories of artists fueled by philosophies well ahead of their time.

Related Programming

African Family Roots: Storytelling with Diane Macklin - Saturday, November 21, 1pm
Opening Day Curator's Talk - Saturday October 10, 2pm

Order the Exhibition Catalog
Click here to order the catalog for Ruth Starr Rose: Revelations of African American Life in Maryland and the World.

All images ©2015 The estate of Ruth Starr Rose

Presented by Brown Capital Management.

with special thanks to

Baltimore County logo  Creative Baltimore Fund  Maryland Humanities Council logo  Maryland State Arts Council logo

This project was made possible by a grant from the Maryland Humanities Council, through support from the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication) (program) (exhibition) (website) do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or the Maryland Humanities Council.

Saturday, October 10 to Sunday, April 3
Included with museum admission