Presented to the viewer in the magnificent attire of a servant, a young black man of 18th-century France comes exuberantly to life. The youth’s confident air transcends the irony of enslavement in a land struggling with the notion of freedom on its native soil.
Image of the Black Archive & Library
Spanning nearly 5,000 years and documenting virtually all forms of media, the Image of the Black Archive & Library is an unprecedented research project devoted to the systematic investigation of how people of African descent have been perceived and represented in art. Started in 1960 by Jean and Dominique de Menil in reaction to the continuing existence of segregation in the United States, the Archive contains photographs of approximately 30,000 works of art, each one of which is extensively documented and categorized by the Archive's staff. For the first thirty years of the project's existence, the project focused on the production of a prize-winning, four-volume series of generously illustrated books, The Image of the Black in Western Art. Since moving to Harvard in 1994, the project is focused on the production of the final volume of The Image of the Black in Western Art and expanding access to the Archive itself (prior to its arrival at Harvard, the Archive was only available to scholars working on the published volumes). The Institute hosts conferences, fellowships for scholars, seminars, and exhibitions on issues raised by the Archive, including the African American Art Conference in 2004.