Monday, 30 March 2015

The Image of the Black In Western Art 10 Volumes - Complete

I took delivery of the last four volumes of the Image of the Black in Western Art (IBWA) almost four years to the day from taking delivery its first four volumes, I now have all ten volumes.

I purchased those first four volumes of the IBWA at its UK launch back in March 2011at the British Museum, I was so pleased with the whole experience I wrote about it. True to their word the publishers kept that special launch price offer for me for all the subsequent volumes making the purchase slightly easier.

They are simply magnificent to look at, stunning layouts and high quality paper and their physical size (and weight 17,580 kgms aka 2.7 stone) give them a presence and monumentality of their own. They now have pride of place on my bookshelf.

It has been a joy to open each volume as they come sealed in plastic to protect them and I in turn cover the covers in plastic to protect them. Turning each page to reveal so many extraordinarily beautiful paintings and drawings all with a Black presence; some up front and center, others reserved and marginal, many controversial and shocking.

So many eye catching pictures – many stand out - here are ones that have touched me so far:

An extraordinary self portrait sketch by Goya.

Vol IV Part 2 pg 248
A dramatic German expressionist wood cut of the three Magi

Vol IV Part 2 pg 241
A monumental photograph of a Senegalese street seller entitled The Merchant of Venice

Vol V Part 2 pg 214
I have to  mention that the volumes' images of Blacks are not complete, there are some - to my mind - glaring omission. I don’t believe the editors claimed to include every image of the Black in Western Art so I have no real criticism of any absences – the selections are inevitably subjective.  However it is a pity that three important early English images - which I have written about elsewhere on this blog - did not make it into those IBWA volumes covering the Medieval and the Renaissance periods.

The Black presence in the Doomsday Abbreviato

The Black Magus in Great Malvern Priory

The Black Magus from the V&A Panel

I feel churlish bringing these omissions to light nevertheless perhaps they can be included in the next edition of IBWA! Their absence takes absolutely nothing away from the brilliance of these volumes. The IBWA will continue to be my starting point - my reference - when considering any image including a  Black presence. I cannot recommend IBWA highly enough.

BTW the books are on offer at the IBWA web site 20% for single volume 40% for all ten -  expensive and priceless -Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic online

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