Defying and Delineating Race in Antebellum New Orleans: Jules Lion’s Lithographs and Patronage, 1837-1866


Luce/ACLS Dissertation Fellowships in American Art


History of Art


Antebellum New Orleans free man of color Jules Lion (c. 1816-1866) was one of America’s earliest photographers and most prolific lithographers, yet his racial status challenges the American art canon by defying classification as exclusively European or African American. Born in France, his mixed-race and transnational identity was not unusual within the structure of New Orleans’s racial hierarchy, where a significant group of “free people of color” dominated aspects of culture and enjoyed financial success. This project examines Lion’s place in the American art canon, analyzes how his 200 extant lithographic portraits of predominately white middle-class men delineate New Orleans’s social structures, and explores how he navigated such a unique racial culture.