E. (or J.) Wats image
 
 

Tool Chest
E. (or J.) Wats, Painted wood, 1899

 


Tool Chest

E. (or J.) Wats, Painted wood, 1899

The four sides of this story chest depict scenes from plantation life and the consequences of slavery. Perhaps the depictions of hard field labor, cultivating cotton and melons, were remembered from the artist’s own experience. The story ends with African American former slaves ascending into a Paradise filled with the pleasures of good food, riches, and music. Ripe fruits, turkey, and roasts of meat hang from a tree in heaven. By contrast, the souls of slave owners perch precariously over the fiery pits of hell.

The narrative satirical style of the art work is both biting and amusing. The contrast between the depiction of the exertions of the field workers and the idle pampering of the landowners is stark.

This chest may have been used to store tools, but its purpose is uncertain. Similarly, the identity of the artist E. (or possibly J.) Wats remains unknown, and is a subject of investigation today.