Black Victorians: Black People in British Art, 1800-1900
Author(s): Jan Marsh (Editor)
Year published: 2005
Publisher: Lund Humphries
Publisher Location: London
Total Pages: 208
Illustrations: Includes 70 colour and 40 b&w illustrations
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.