press release

Black Victorians explores the presence of people of African descent in 19th century British art. This is the first major exhibition of its kind in Britain and gives a fascinating and often surprising insight into a small but significant section of Britain’s population at this time. The exhibition challenges the view that there were few black people in Britain at this time and reveals a cast of characters including entertainers, churchmen, sportspeople, artists’ models and politicians.

Black Victorians encompasses around a hundred works in a wide range of media, including paintings, sculpture, prints, photography and ephemera. It includes the work of many well-known names such as William Etty, William Holman Hunt, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, James Whistler and Pietro Calvi. Several works are exhibited for the first time since the 19th century and some portraits are new discoveries.

The exhibition is arranged into themes: Artists’ Models, in which black models appear as themselves or as characters chosen by the artist… Anti-Slavery, with Britain changing from … Into and Out of Africa, featuring British artists’ depictions of people they met on their travels in Africa and images of Africans

visiting Britain…Portraits, from celebrity portraits to small photographs exchanged between friends… and Fiction and Fantasy, depictions of real or imagined people and events from history and fiction. A further theme is Queen Victoria and her involvement with some of the subjects on show.

Many of the works in the exhibition are of either solo or central figures, revealing a host of wonderful human stories behind the works. Portraits of Crimean nurse and heroine Mary Seacole, celebrated actor Ira Aldridge (whose portrait by James Northcote was one of the first pictures to be bought and exhibited by Manchester Art Gallery), composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and acrobat Miss La-La will hang alongside figure studies and portraits of as yet unknown artists’ models like Fanny Eaton. Some surprise portraits – Sara Bonetta, the Queen’s god-daughter, political refugee Prince Alamayu and Arthur Wharton, Britain’s first professional black footballer – are also included.

Black Victorians has been curated by writer and curator Jan Marsh and jointly organized by Manchester Art Gallery and Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery. Admission is free. A programme of events and a day-seminar on Saturday 25 February accompanies this exhibition (see accompanying details), as well as a colour catalogue produced by Lund Humphries and priced at £19.95.

This exhibition takes place at the Waterhall Gallery of modern art, Edmund Street, Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery.

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Black Victorians
Black People in British Art 1800-1900
Kurator: Jan Marsh
Ort: Birmingham Museum

Künstler: William Etty, William Holman Hunt, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, James McNeill Whistler, Pietro Calvi ...