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The Black Figure in the European Imaginary

by Adrienne L. Childs and Susan H. Libby - £20.00  D Giles Ltd (2017)
paperback    ISBN 13: 9781907804496 | ISBN 10: 1907804498

This original and engrossing book explores ways in which black people were perceived and imagined in the visual arts of Europe from the late 18th century to the 19th century, against a backdrop of slavery, colonialism, and imperialism. Europe’s expanding contact with Africa, led to a growing cultural fascination among white Europeans with people of color. Black figures proliferated in various media — oil paintings and watercolors, sculpture, engravings, and decorative objects such as glassware and ceramics. These works evoke the contradictions and ambivalence with which so many Europeans viewed black people: they serve as reminders of conquest, meditations on exoticism, and romantic longings for timeless cultures, as well as portrayals of distinct individuals, sometimes of great import.
Often depicting their subjects with depth and dignity, these artworks also reveal undercurrents of objectification, servitude, and a focus on black sexuality tied to hierarchical attitudes about race. It is the authors’ aim to show the paradoxes present in these works of art, in which the figures’ individuality and humanity exist alongside their imagined differences.

(Price & availability last checked: September 2017)

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In booklists: Black, Asian and Middle East Art and Artists, Art History,
In categories: Anti-Racism, Black, Asian & Other Diasporas, History & Biography, Arts & Creativity,

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