The Construction of Race in Representations of Black Women in Visual Art
The depiction of black women, and black people in general, in Western art is inextricably linked to colonialism. As art historian Charmaine A. Nelson argues in her book Representing the Female Subject in Western Art, “It was through colonization and one of its central mechanisms, slavery, that Africans came to be in and of the west in significant enough numbers to begin to become frequent in Western art” (4). In this thesis I will investigate the representation of black women in Western art and the influence that this representation might have had on society’s perception of them. I will do so by analyzing two works of art, namely Andrea Mantegna’s Judith and Her Maidservant with the Head of Holofernes (1491-1492) and Mickalene Thomas’ Le Déjeuner sur l'Herbe: Les Trois Femmes Noires (2010).
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