Black Victorians: Black People in British Art, 1800-1900

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9780853319306: Black Victorians: Black People in British Art, 1800-1900
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The black presence in Victorian art is greater than may be supposed. Indeed, the expanding art market in the nineteenth century was largely based on British prosperity resulting from imperial commerce and conquest. It can therefore be said that Victorian art owes its existence to those who are relatively absent from its images. Black Victorians brings together over 100 images depicting black figures, to reveal the diversity of representation within nineteenth-century visual culture and to foreground the 'forgotten' presence of people of African descent in Victorian British art. The range of images is broad, from pictures of soldiers and sailors in Britain's armed forces and men and women in genre scenes to portraits of entertainers and political refugees and studies of artists' models. Notable individuals featured include actor Ira Aldridge, Crimean heroine Mary Seacole, the Queen's god-daughter Sarah Bonetta Davies, composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and Abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass. In addition to the fine arts of painting, drawing and sculpture, the selection includes photography, popular illustration, caricature and ephemera, which provide a cultural context for the portraits and subject pictures, as well as presenting black figures as members of British society in everyday settings. Many major artists of the period are represented, including Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt, Edward Burne-Jones, Julia Margaret Cameron, Edgar Degas and J. A. M. Whistler. Many works are virtually unknown and collected here for the first time. Presenting an important opportunity to see and assess how black figures have been portrayed in British art, Black Victorians is an original and fascinating survey of a subject that has been given little coverage to date. It is essential reading for anyone wishing to seek a fresh perspective on a well-documented period of British history.

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Review:

Prize: 'Creating the Performance' award from the Progress Trust in recognition of its role in promoting the understanding of Black history and for work with the Black community through the exhibition. 'A superbly illustrated catalogue is published by Lund Humphries.' The Victorian, November 2005 'The fascinating essays which make up the contents of this beautifully illustrated book suggest that the black presence in VIctorian art is much greater than had hitherto been supposed... Aldridge's stunning portrait is only one of the many arresting images, photographic and otherwise, which make this book so splendid... a remarkable and engrosing book.' Birmingham Post, Mar 06 ' ... serves as a valuable reference book, thanks to a wealth of well-documented imagery and brief biographies of sitters'. Victorian Studies 2006 'The catalogue is sensibly designed to last as a stand-alone book and will no doubt sonn feature on university reading lists.' The Victorian, March 2006 '...Marsh's sweeping introduction is a valuable overview; B. Llewellyn's examination of attitudes of British artists in Egypt is fascinating, as is C. Bressey's essay on Victorian photography; denser but highly interesting is R. Clytus's study of racial definitions of "blackness" and its relation to colonialism implicit in the caricatures of West Indians...A useful and well-illustrated contribution...Recommended.' -Choice, May 2006

About the Author:

Jan Marsh is known for ground-breaking studies of the Pre-Raphaelite circle, and the major exhibition Pre-Raphaelite Women Artists (1997-8). Prior to her work as an art historian and curator, she worked during the apartheid years with the International Defence and Aid Fund for Southern Africa. Caroline Bressey is Research Fellow on Historical Geographies of the Black Community in Victorian Britain at University College London, UK, and Vice Chair of the Black and Asian Studies Association. Radiclani Clytus is currently with the African-American studies department at Yale University, USA, and was formerly Research Fellow at the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition. Briony Llewellyn is an art historian specialising in travel artists' depictions of the Middle East and North Africa. She is currently preparing a monograph on John Frederick Lewis. Charmaine Nelson is Assistant Professor in Art History at McGill University, Montreal, Canada. David Dabydeen, Jan Marsh, Radiclani Clytus, Briony Llewellyn, Charmaine Nelson, Jan Marsh, Caroline Bressey.

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