James Porter (1905-1970) was the first scholar to identify the African influence on visual art in the Americans, and much of what is known about the cultural legacy that African-American artists inherited from their African forebears has come to us by way of his work. Porter, a painter and art historian, began by studying African-American crafts of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This research revealed that many of the household items created by African-American men and women—walking sticks, jugs, and textiles—displayed characteristics that linked them iconographically to artifacts of West Africa. Porter then went on to establish clearly the range of the cultural territory inherited by later African-American artists.
An example of this aspect of Porter’s research occurs in his essay “Robert S. Duncanson, Midwestern Romantic-Realist.” The work of Duncanson, a nineteenth-century painter of the Hudson River school, like that of his predecessor in the movement, Joshua Johnston, was commonly thought to have been created by a Euro-American artist. Porter proved definitively that both Duncanson and Johnston were of African ancestry. Porter published this finding and thousands of others in a comprehensive volume tracing the history of African-American art. At the time of its first printing in 1943, only two other books devoted exclusively to the accomplishments of African-American artists existed. Both of these books were written by Alain LeRoy Locke, a professor at the university where Porter also taught. While these earlier studies by Locke are interesting for being the first to survey the field, neither addressed the critical issue of African precursors; Porter’s book addressed this issue, painstakingly integrating the history of African-American art into the larger history of art in the Americas without separating it from those qualities that gave it its unique ties to African artisanship. Porter may have been especially attuned to these ties because of his conscious effort to maintain them in his own paintings, many of which combine the style of the genre portrait with evidence of an extensive knowledge of the cultural history of various African peoples.
In his later years, Porter wrote additional chapters for later editions of his book, constantly revising and correcting his findings, some of which had been based of necessity on fragmentary evidence. Among his later achievements were his definitive reckoning of the birth year of the painter Patrick Reason, long a point of scholarly uncertainty, and his identification of an unmarked grave in San Francisco as that of the sculptor Edmonia Lewis. At his death, Porter left extensive notes for unfinished project aimed at exploring the influence of African art on the art of the Western world generally, a body of research whose riches scholars still have not exhausted.
6. Which one of the following most accurately states the main idea of the passage?
(A) Because the connections between African-American art and other art in the Americas had been established by earlier scholars, Porter’s work focused on showing African-American art’s connections to African artisanship.
(B) In addition to showing the connections between African-American art and African artisanship, Porter’s most important achievement was illustrating the links between African-American art and other art in Americas.
(C) Despite the fact that his last book remains unfinished, Porter’s work was the first to devote its attention exclusively to the accomplishments of African-American artists.
(D) Although showing the connections between African-American art and African artisanship, Porter’s work concentrated primarily on placing African-American art in the context of Western art in general.
(E) While not the first body of scholarship to treat the subject of African-American art, Porter’s work was the first to show the connections between African-American art and African artisanship.
7. The discussion of Locke’s books is intended primarily to
(A) argue that Porte’s book depended upon Locke’s pioneering scholarship
(B) highlight an important way in which Porter’s work differed from previous work in his field
(C) suggest an explanation for why Porter’s book was little known outside academic circles
(D) support the claim that Porter was not the first to notice African influences in African-American art
(E) argue that Locke’s example was a major influence o Porter’s decision to publish his findings
8. The passage states which one of the following about the 1943 edition of Porter’s book on African-American art?
(A) It received little scholarly attention at first.
(B) It was revised and improved upon in later editions.
(C) It took issue with several of Locke’s conclusions.
(D) It is considered the definitive version of Porter’s work.
(E) It explored the influence of African art on western art in general.
9. Given the information in the passage, Porter’s identification of the ancestry of Duncanson and Johnston provides conclusive evidence for which one of the following statements?
(A) Some of the characteristics defining the Hudson River school are iconographically linked to Weston African artisanship.
(B) Some of the works of Duncanson and Johnston are not in the style of the Hudson River school.
(C) Some of the work of Euro-American painters displays similarities to African-American crafts of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
(D) Some of the works of the Hudson River school were done by African-American painters.
(E) Some of the works of Duncanson and Johnston were influenced by West African artifacts.
10. Which one of the following can most reasonably be inferred from the passage about the study that Porter left unfinished at his death?
(A) If completed, it would have contradicted some of the conclusions contained in his earlier book.
(B) If completed, it would have amended some of the conclusions contained in his earlier book.
(C) If completed, it would have brought up to date the comprehensive history of African-American art begun in his earlier book.
(D) If completed, it would have expanded upon the project of his earlier book by broadening the scope of inquiry found in the earlier book.
(E) If completed, it would have supported some of the theories put forth by Porter’s contemporaries since the publication of his earlier book.
11. Which of the following hypothetical observations is most closely analogous to the discoveries Porter made about African-American crafts of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries?
(A) Contemporary Haitian social customs have a unique character dependent on but different from both their African and French origins.
(B) Popular music in the United States, some of which is based on African musical traditions, often influences music being composed on the African continent.
(C) Many novels written in Canada by Chinese immigrants exhibit narrative themes very similar to those found in Chinese folktales.
(D) Extensive Indian immigration to England has made traditional Indian foods nearly as popular there as the traditional English foods that had been popular there before Indian immigration.
(E) Some Mexican muralists of the early twentieth century consciously imitated the art of native peoples as a response to the Spanish influences that had predominated in Mexican art.
12. The passage most strongly supports which one of the following inferences about Porter’s own paintings?
(A) They often contained figures or images derived from the work of African artisans.
(B) They fueled his interest in pursuing a career in art history.
(C) They were used in Porter’s book to show the extent of African influence on African-American art.
(D) They were a deliberate attempt to prove his theories about art history.
(E) They were done after all of his academic work had been completed.
13. Based on the passage, which one of the following, if true, would have been most relevant to the project Porter was working on at the time of his death?
(A) African-American crafts of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries have certain resemblances to European folk crafts of earlier periods.
(B) The paintings of some twentieth-century European artists prefigured certain stylistic developments in North African graphic art.
(C) The designs of many of the quilts made by African-American women in the nineteenth century reflect designs of European trade goods.
(D) After the movement of large numbers of African-Americans to cities, the African influences in the work of many African-American painters increased.
(E) Several portraits by certain twentieth-century European painters were modeled after examples of Central African ceremonial masks.