BLK ART: The Audacious Legacy of Black Artists and Models in Western Art

Harper Design: HarperCollins. Jan. 2023. 224p. ISBN 9780063272415. $34.99. FINE ARTS
This title from writer and poet Ware covers everything from ancient Greece through the early 20th century. It contains amusing descriptions of European and American paintings and sculptures—and even more entertaining send-ups of notable art patrons—that turn traditional art history on its ear in a conversational, informal, approachable voice. Two sections make up the majority of this edifying work; the first details works of art that depict people of color. Countering the dominant Black slavery narrative and consequent stereotypes, most of these subjects are nobles, merchants, and other high-standing members of society, even after the colonial trade of enslaved African people was well underway. The second section shines a light on many Black artists and their work. While the coverage isn’t exhaustive for each artist, this section would make an excellent starting point for further research. A reading list and index at the end also make this endeavor rewarding.
VERDICT This is a welcome new voice to the generally staid conventions of art history. A lively, engaging examination of a serious and under-addressed topic.
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