The Image of the Black in Western Art

The General Editors

David Bindman is Emeritus Professor of the History of Art at University College London. He was educated at Oxford, Harvard, and the Courtauld Institute, University of London. He has taught and lectured extensively in the United States and has held fellowships at Yale, the National Gallery of Art, the Getty Institute, and the Du Bois Institute at Harvard University. He has written mainly on British art but also on the representation of race. He is the author of Ape to Apollo: Aesthetics and the Idea of Race, 1700–1800, and has edited The History of British Art, (3 volumes).

Henry Louis Gates, Jr., is Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and the Director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Research Institute at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University. Professor Gates is Editor-in-Chief of the Oxford African American Studies Center, the first comprehensive scholarly online resource in the field of African American Studies and Africana Studies, and of The Root, an online news magazine dedicated to coverage of African American news, culture, and genealogy.

A Note from the General Editors

A pioneering work in the field of art history, The Image of the Black in Western Art is a comprehensive series of ten books which offers a lavishly illustrated history of the representations of people of African descent from antiquity to the present. Each book includes a series of essays by some of the most distinguished names in art history. Ranging from images of Pharaohs created by unknown hands almost 3,500 years ago to the works of the great masters of European and American art such as Bosch, Dürer, Mantegna, Rembrandt, Rubens, Watteau, Hogarth, Copley, and Goya to stunning new media creations by contemporary black artists, these books are generously illustrated with beautiful, moving, and often little-known images of black people. Black figures—queens and slaves, saints and soldiers, priests and prisoners, dancers and athletes, children and gods—are central to the visual imagination of Western civilization. Written in accessible language, the extensive and insightful commentaries on the illustrations by distinguished art historians make this series invaluable for the general reader and the specialist alike.

This series has been almost fifty years in the making. It was first conceived in 1960 by Dominique de Menil under the auspices of the Menil Foundation of Houston, Texas. By 1989 the first half of the series had been enthusiastically received in English and French. The five books which have already been published will be reissued as new editions with up-to-date introductions and even more color illustrations. The five new books will move from the powerful medieval presence of the black Saint Maurice to the representation of blacks within the exuberant urban street life of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, before turning to vibrant nineteenth-century images of historical personalities and the artistic discovery of Africa. The final two books will end with twentieth-century art, including the great avant-garde artists, as well as the global rise of black artists whose own representations of the black experience dramatically shift the arc of our narrative. A stand-alone companion volume is also being planned for publication to further explore the richness and diversity of non-Western black artists representing the black experience—The Image of the Black in African Art. A major international exhibition titled “Black Like Me” is being planned on both sides of the Atlantic to coincide with the publication of the twentieth-century volume. The venues for the exhibition are still to be decided.

From its inception, The Image of the Black in Western Art had a serious following among art lovers and readers interested in the history of African peoples. Images of black people in the ancient world and the middle ages were gathered together and superbly reproduced, dispelling their anonymity for the first time. The new editions will include the original essays by such internationally famous authors as the African-American Frank Snowden, the Frenchman Jean Devisse, and the Englishman Hugh Honour. There will also be new introductions and essays by some of the most exciting and innovative art historians working today. The interest in these books continues even today among loyal readers of the first edition, as well as among younger readers and art historians.

Today it gives us great pleasure to introduce The Image of the Black in Western Art to a new generation of readers and re-introduce it those who are familiar with these volumes already on their shelves. This project began against the backdrop of the civil rights movement of the 1960s. As the first American president of African descent serves his historic term in office, Harvard University Press and the Du Bois Institute at Harvard look forward to completing this series with the publication of the final five books of The Image of the Black in Western Art.

About the Books

In the 1960s, as a response to segregation in the United States, the influential art patron Dominique de Menil began a research project and photo archive called The Image of the Black in Western Art. Now, fifty years later, as the first American president of African American descent serves his historic term in office, her mission has been re-invigorated through the collaboration of Harvard University Press and the W. E. B. Du Bois Research Institute at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research to present new editions of the coveted five original books, as well as an additional five volumes.

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