What is clear is that Duncanson envisioned a life without limits, a life beyond the role of the slave or laborer into which African-Americans had been cast. He instead cast himself as an artist, propelling himself into the higher echelons of society, and forged a place in history as one of the greatest landscape painters of the 19th century.
“Duncanson was a phenomenon,” concludes Perry. “He made choices, he was bold and he attained a status of prestige that was unprecedented in the United States. That took strength and a trailblazing quality that I find inspiring.”