Enfilade

New Book | Witnessing Slavery

Posted in books by Editor on September 29, 2019

From Yale UP:

Sarah Thomas, Witnessing Slavery: Art and Travel in the Age of Abolition (London: Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 2019), 304 pages, ISBN: 978-1913107055, $55.

Gathering together over 160 paintings, watercolors, drawings, and prints, this book offers an unprecedented examination of the shifting iconography of slavery in British and European art between 1760 and 1840. In addition to considering how the work of artists such as Agostino Brunias, James Hakewill, and Augustus Earle responded to abolitionist politics, Sarah Thomas examines the importance of the eyewitness account in endowing visual representations of transatlantic slavery with veracity. ‘Being there’, indeed, became significant not only because of the empirical opportunities to document slave life it afforded but also because the imagery of the eyewitness was more credible than sketches and paintings created by the ‘armchair traveler’ at home. Full of original insights that cast a new light on these highly charged images, this volume reconsiders how slavery was depicted within a historical context in which truth was a deeply contested subject.

Sarah Thomas is lecturer in the Department of History of Art at Birkbeck, University of London.

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