In 1867, Thomas Nast produced his “Grand Caricaturama,” a series of thirty-three large paintings which, through use of political caricature, capture the failings of Reconstruction due to policies, and lack of policies, Andrew Johnson had put in place after he acquired the Presidency in 1865. As states refused to keep their promises outlined in Johnson’s Amnesty Proclamation, by electing former confederate officials and passing “Black Codes,” Congress and Nast’s fellow Radical Republicans lost faith in the President, feeling that he was practically giving away the Northern victory.
In an effort to sway public opinion in support of the Radical Republicans, Nast painted scenes such as “The Massacre at New Orleans,” openly criticizing Johnson for allowing and even promoting events such as which took place in New Orleans on July 30th, 1866. The painting depicts an angry Johnson to the right, coming out of a shabby looking building to look upon the slaughter of unarmed black and white Radical Republicans by white vigilantes and law enforcement. He wears a crown and robe, indicating his yearning for political power, and also establishing his connection to the armed policemen.
The paintings over all scene makes reference to Goya’s “The Third of May” in which pleading civilians are gathered to be shot by Napoleon’s soldiers at close range. Likewise, the Republicans, raising their hands and make shift white flags in an effort to stop the murdering, are being shot at point-blank.
Goodrich, Loyld. "Thomas Nast." http://www.thomasnast.com/nastanddegas/TheGrandCaricaturama/NastCaricaturama.htm (accessed 2/14/2011).
Pohl,Frances. Framing America: A Social History of American Art. 2nd ed. New York: Thames & Hudson, 2002.
"Simple Art." http://www.michaelarnoldart.com/FranciscoJosede%20GoyaYLucientes.htm (accessed 2/14/2011).
"The massacre at New Orleans." http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2009617747/ (accessed 2/14/2011).