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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 occupies 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 Institute to present new editions of the coveted five original books and the anticipated first part of a new volume. The completed set will include ten sumptuous books in five volumes with up-to-date introductions and more full-color illustrations, printed on high-quality art stock for books that will last a lifetime. This monumental publication offers expert commentary and a lavishly illustrated history of the representations of people of African descent ranging from the ancient images of Pharaohs created by unknown hands to the works of the great European masters such as Bosch, Rembrandt, Rubens, and Hogarth to stunning new creations by contemporary black artists. Including thousands of beautiful, moving, and often little-known images of black people, including queens and slaves, saints and soldiers, children and gods, "The Image of the Black in Western Art" provides a treasury of masterpieces from four millennia - a testament to the black experience in the West and a tribute to art's enduring power to shape our common humanity.
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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. -- Kwame Anthony Appiah 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. -- Paul Gilroy, author of The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness

About the Author

David Bindman is Emeritus Professor of the History of Art at University College London. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., is Alphonse Fletcher University Professor and is the Director of the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard University.

Reviews

One of the most thorough collections depicting the African-American in works of art...The books build on the research and photo project started by art patron Dominique de Menil in the 1960s, which grew out of a frustration with segregation. The collection was then transferred and continued to grow at the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard University. De Menil's original volumes have been updated by David Bindman and Henry Louis Gates Jr. and now include more detailed descriptions and provide a larger context of the artwork that spans more than 5,000 years, including the Roman Empire to present-day pieces, filling in tremendous gaps in de Menil's collection, according to some art historians. The images, printed in full-color on high-quality pages, are available for the masses to see and understand how African-Americans not only fit into the various societies of the Western world, but how those relationships evolved throughout the ages. Kirkus Reviews 20100915 The volumes so far are a treasury of paintings and sculptures of people down the ages, taking in many strands of ritual, classicism, artlessness and humanity. -- William Feaver Spectator 20101218 Harvard is known to be reluctant to publish art books but if this is anything to go by, it should do so more often. -- Jaynie Anderson Australian Literary Review 20110202 This volume is breathtaking in its scope and scholarship. -- K. Mason Choice 20111001 Monumental and groundbreaking volumes...[with] beautifully reproduced and thought-provoking images...A vast array of different "Images of the Black" appear in these volumes, from statues of black saints such as St. Maurice or St. Benedict the Moor, to portraits of notable African ambassadors and kings, poets and musicians, or drawings of literary characters such as Shakespeare's Othello, Aphra Behn's Oroonoko, or Yarico from George Colman's Inkle and Yarico...Africans have been painted and sculpted by some of the most eminent artists in the Western tradition, including Titian, Tiepolo, Rubens, Rembrandt,Van Dyck, Reynolds, Hogarth, Watteau and Gainsborough. More importantly, they have not been caricatured, but sensitively portrayed by these masters, their humanity captured on canvas for all to see...In placing such a vast variety of different images together, both positive and negative, these volumes show that the "Image of the Black" was not at all homogenous but rather reflected the wide range of the Western response to the "other."...Seen through the prism of "Western Art," these "Images of the Black" often tell us more about the Europeans and their agendas than the Africans they portray. Nonetheless, the cumulative effect of the images is to demonstrate a continuous black presence in the Western imagination and experience...This series will pose new questions to scholars of art, history and literature and provoke us all to reconsider the role of "the Black" in Western civilization. -- Miranda Kaufmann Times Literary Supplement 20120323

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