Blacks and Blackness in European Art of the Long Nineteenth Century
Compelling and troubling, colorful and dark, black figures served as the quintessential image of difference in nineteenth-century European art; the essays in this volume further the investigation of constructions of blackness during this period. This collection marks a phase in the scholarship on images of blacks that moves beyond undifferentiated binaries like ’negative’ and ’positive’ that fail to reveal complexities, contradictions, and ambiguities. Essays that cover the late eighteenth through the early twentieth century explore the visuality of blackness in anti-slavery imagery, black women in Orientalist art, race and beauty in fin-de-siècle photography, the French brand of blackface minstrelsy, and a set of little-known images of an African model by Edvard Munch. In spite of the difficulty of resurrecting black lives in nineteenth-century Europe, one essay chronicles the rare instance of an American artist of color in mid-nineteenth-century Europe. With analyses of works ranging from Géricault's Raft of the Medusa, to portraits of the American actor Ira Aldridge, this volume provides new interpretations of nineteenth-century representations of blacks.
’This excellent volume exemplifies the increasing sophistication of scholarship around issues of the representation of race, particularly in the nineteenth century. High art, popular art and popular performance involving Africans are analysed with due regard to the complexities of European racial attitudes in an age of commercialism and empire.’ David Bindman, Hutchins Center at Harvard University, USA and author of Ape to Apollo: Aesthetics and the Idea of Race in the Eighteenth Century
’It is exciting to see scholars continue to probe the question of how visual arts of the West reflect the reactions to the experiences of Africans in the diaspora. The manner in which Europeans viewed and represented blacks in art is tied to the larger questions of power, cultural and political domination and exchange, along with an ever evolving influential aesthetics of difference. This well written volume of enlightening essays is a major contribution to the literature on race and representation as it broadens our understanding of the extent to which the dynamics of race has colored the history of art in Europe in many ways. Even though this volume focuses on European art, there are important contributions to the history of art relating to African Americans who created art in Europe in the nineteenth century. The discussions of slavery, Orientalism, photography and modernism in this book bring fresh perspectives to the subject of blackness in Europe. This volume is a must read for all who wish to advance their knowledge of a much neglected subject in American and European art history.’ David C. Driskell, Distinguished University Professor of Art Emeritus, University of Maryland, College Park, USA
'Blacks and Blackness in European Art of the Long Nineteenth Century assembles studies on a wide range of subjects that, taken together, reveal not just the relevance of images of “blacks” and “blackness” to studies of the nineteenth century, but constitute a compelling argument for how integral an awareness of the issues raised by those images should be to any account of the art of the period.' CAA Reviews