Access Type

Open Access Thesis

Date of Award

January 2019

Degree Type


Degree Name



Art and Art History

First Advisor

Dora Apel


This essay examines how Carlisle Indian Boarding School portraits portray transformation in students and the aesthetic history that perception holds with portrait painting, the ideological use of student portraits as illustrations of assimilation, and the continued emotional weight those portraits carry in contemporary media. Formal and aesthetic choices by the official school photographer and propagandistic uses by the school’s founder determine the role of nineteen-century assimilationist and racist ideology in the commission and dissemination of CIBS student portraits. Additionally, the appearance of these images in contemporary media and art provide a continued analysis of CIBS portraits as visual representatives of the traumatic history of the boarding school era.