In the 1960s, art patrons Dominique and Jean de Menil founded an image archive showing the ways that people of African descent have been represented in Western art from the ancient world to modern times. Highlights from the image archive, accompanied by essays written by major scholars, appeared in three large-format volumes, consisting of one or more books, that quickly became collector's items. A half-century later, Harvard University Press and the Du Bois Institute are proud to have republished five of the original books and to present five completely new ones, extending the series into the twentieth century.
The Impact of Africa, the first of two books on the twentieth century, looks at changes in the Western perspective on African art and the representation of Africans, and the paradox of their interpretation as simultaneously "primitive" and "modern." The essays include topics such as the new medium of photography, African influences on Picasso and on Josephine Baker's impression of 1920s Paris, and the influential contribution of artists from the Caribbean and Latin American diasporas.
With the publication of the fifth volume, concentrating on the 20th century, [this series] has become a necessary cultural resource documenting the visual construction of blackness over the past 5,000 years. This latest and perhaps last volume—subdivided into two parts, The Impact of Africa and The Rise of Black Artists—redirects the underlying colonialist, Eurocentric framing of the previous four volumes. The co-editors, David Bindman and Henry Louis Gates Jr., bring focus to black artists globally as makers of their own art and imagery, rather than solely the subjects of others’ fantasies and fascination… Laudatory in its scope, notable for the high quality of its essays and, in terms of reproduction quality, impressively illustrated, The Image of the Black in Western Art: Volume V should have wide popular and scholarly appeal.
This is the first part of the fifth volume in a series that has profound and moral depth—the cumulative effect of all the books in the series is to see the ways in which ethics, aesthetics, and looking are entwined, and the ways in which they are made even more complicated by culture and by class.
I also would recommend The Image of the Black in Western Art, which is both expensive and priceless. It's fascinating to see how black people were viewed before we decided that African ancestry made you, by God or science, property.
A major accomplishment of art history, the fifth volume of this seminal series moves into the 20th century. Founded by art patron Dominique Schlumberger de Menil in the 1960s, the collection and subsequent series of books are intended as a ‘subtle bulwark and living testimony against antiblack racism’ through the exploration of representations of black people in Western art. This latest volume, edited by the influential scholars Bindman and Gates, looks broadly at the 20th‐century shifts in representation of Africa and people of African heritage in Western visual art (most often by white artists), including the significant influence African art exerted on modernism. The essays by esteemed academics range in topic from photography in the 19th century to Josephine Baker in Paris and the Negritude French literary movement. Without exception, the texts twine together research, image, and insight in a gracefully readable exploration of a complex topic. The series on a whole is truly indispensable and this particular volume offers an incredibly dynamic tour through Western history, racial difference, and visual art, all informing one another in ways often invisible as we study those subjects.
The writing is clear and accessible in this well-illustrated, scholarly volume that’s also suitable for a broader audience. Much of the material covered here, particularly on photography and on non-European representations, will be new to most readers.
A fascinating story of the changing image of Africa's people in Western art. The images are simply extraordinary and the scholarship inspiring. Anyone who cares about Western art or about Africa and her diaspora ought to know these magnificent volumes.
In addition to being an indispensable guide to the evolving meanings of racial difference, these dazzling volumes filled with extraordinary images and rich arguments contribute to an alternative history of the Western world. An invaluable gift for both specialists and general readers.
- 320 pages
- Belknap Press
- Associate editor Karen C. C. Dalton
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