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Art and imperial power. Art Flashcards. Europeans in Africa. Interrelationship between Europeans and Africans and the impact of the relationship on artistic production. (15 th -16 th centuries)

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europeans in africa
Europeans in Africa
  • Interrelationship between Europeans and Africans and the impact of the relationship on artistic production. (15th-16th centuries)
  • Portugals early role in the slave trade set the stage for greater powers like Great Britain and Holland who would take over as the dominant force in the 17th century
  • “The scramble for Africa”

A period of intense and aggressive colonization of African states by European powers began in the 1880’s

Decolonization and Post Colonial Art
  • Imperial Control in Africa began to Decay in the 1950’s
  • The most lucrative market for contemporary art was Europe
  • This period was especially challenging for African artists; most Europeans expected African art to be primitive, tribal and uninfluenced by western ways. Materials acquired by Europe in earlier days had ceased creating a change in media for some.

Artists responded to the situation in a variety of ways…..

Some abandoned reference to traditional ways and materials indigenous to the land.

Some adapted their forms as they incorporated newly available materials.

Can be seen as a sort of “Tourist Art” collected by

Portuguese travelers to bring back to the wealthy

Clients who financed their voyages.

Hybrid between cultures because…..

Ivory carvers from Africa used imagery from

Both Africa and Europe to make these more

Enticing to the European market.

A status piece displayed in homes of the wealthy

to show wealth and power of the family.

Dogs and snakes are represented in high relief,

both are considered to have strong connections to the spiritual world in African Culture.

16th century ivory 'saltcellar’

sapi is located on the coastline of present day guinea and sierra leone
Sapi is located on the Coastline of present Day Guinea and Sierra Leone

Sapi-Portuguese Refers to

The African region of Sapi

As it was discovered by and

Influenced by the early

Portoguese Slave traders.

benin kingdom court style plaque 16 th 17 th century
Benin Kingdom Court Style Plaque 16th-17th Century

The Portuguese found skilled artists

Working in the Benin Kingdom along

The western coast of Africa.

Portuguese people referred to the Kingdom

As the Beny Kingdom.

Copper and Brass were important to the

People of Benin and most of the artwork

From the region was made of cast metal.

In 1897 the British attacked Benin and

Conquered the very powerful region.

Benin had taken over many neighboring

Regions prior to the British takeover.

After the British takeover many of the

Art pieces were sold to British Museums

Many of the works of art were created

For use in rituals and for display on


This plaque is a depiction of important

Benin leaders and fighters.

The scale and relief of each figure conveys a message of rank.

The largest figure being most important.

The very ornate regalia is also a sign

of wealth and power.

It is still argued that some of these pieces should be returned to the native land from British Museums.

asafo flag
Asafo Flag

Location: Coastal Area of Ghana

The Fante region

Each group in the Fante region has it’s own organized military. Flags were used to specify between groups.

Flags were used to intimidate neighboring enemy groups.

This Flag, significant for it’s

Hi“Story” It is a good example of the interaction between British and West African cultural groups.

As sa- WAR Fo – People Highly organized Military Groups in the region.

Newark Museum

yoruba wrapper
Yoruba wrapper

Batik in Africa

yoruba dress and regalia current day nigeria
Yoruba dress and Regalia Current day Nigeria
  • The Yoroba People put great importance on dress to convey wealth and power.
  • The people of Yoruba would trade slaves to European countries for Beads and other luxury items to adorn the most powerful in the region.
  • Imagery conveyed important leaders in the region.
Under French Rule prior to British


Guro People not ruled by Kings, instead

Overseen by a group of elders.

Not an aggressive group of people, mostly

focused on agricultural production.

Masks created for spiritual rituals and

Performances for entertainment..

Most masks are carved from wood and


Hybrid Because-

The lower portion is traditional in construction and imagery.

The upper portion uses materials acquired during European trade.

The upper portion also depicts contemporary imagery only seen post colonization by means of imported


Face Mask Guro People

Mid 20th Century

Fading Cloth 2005

Created by El Anatsui

Ghanaian Artist

His Message-


In a post colonial Society

Began to emerge as a major artist

In the 1970’s

Made of Flattened Bottle caps and

Scraps of metal

Meant to be hung with folds to

Accentuate texture and luminosity.

Traditional Weaving techniques

Juxtaposed with modern materials

Found in West Africa Post colonial


art and imperial power1
Art and Imperial Power
  • A look at Commodities and Trade in China India and North American Colonies in relation to the height of the British Empire.
  • One constant here is that all Artists are trying to meet the needs of European Patrons.
  • Britain was focusing on trade and acquiring necessities such as teas and spices and other luxury goods, including works of art.
made in china made for england eighteenth century 1739 43
Made in China, Made for England, Eighteenth Century (1739-43)

Southern China 18th Century

Hybrid because….

A combination of Chinese

Expertise (The use of Porcelain) with European design and Imagery.

Viewed as being exotic yet still demanded some familiar European imagery.

One of a set of fifty plates

Created for

LeakeOkeover and his wife Mary Nichol. Aristocrats from England

Design is a family code of arms.

Company Painting (Kampani)

A group of artists painting imagery that

Reflects a typical sight in India, yet painted

In a style that Europeans were looking for.

Eiteenth and Ninteenth Century equivelent

To tourist art”

A collection of Knowledge and carful

recorded observation

Possession of a painting of particular place is

ones way of asserting control over that

Place as in the colonization of a country.

Common Indian Nightjar

India 18th Century

Paul Revere

By John Singleton Coplay, 1768

Highly respected portrait painter

North America

Painted PRIOR to his famous

Midnight ride.

The painting was created to

celebrate Reveres talent

And work as a metal smith artist.

Here he holds a teapot

(central Motif)

The imagery is significant in that

It refers to the tea trade and the

wearisome relationship between

Britain and the colonies .

Possible political undertones

architecture and power
Architecture and Power
  • A tool used to assert Colonial Power.
  • A combination or Fusion of Gothic, Classical and traditional styles indigenous and imported materials were evident in many of the buildings that were erected around the globe during the British Empire.
victoria terminus building
Victoria Terminus Building

British Architect Frederick William Stevens, 1887 d

Mumbai India, Formerly Bombay

Main Railway station in Mumbai, named to celebrate the Jubilee of Queen Victoria. Completed in 1888.

Combination of European and Traditional Indian Architecture.

Statue at top or the crown is a symbol of Progress, to represent colonial rule.

The entrance is flanked by symbols of European and Indian Power.

royal exhibition building
Royal Exhibition Building
  • This building was constructed to celebrate the Melbourne International Exhibition and was also used for the centennial Exhibition, which celebrated 100 years of European settlement in Australia.
  • A combination of Gothic and Classical church architecture.
  • The building and the Exhibits held there were intended to highlight European ideas about progress.
St. George’s Cathedral Northern Coast of South America Arthur Blomfield, 1894 Guyana’s Capital city, Georgetown
st georges cathedral georgetown
St Georges Cathedral, Georgetown
  • One of the tallest wooden churches in the world
  • A successful hybrid between traditional European style done in a manner that is appropriate to it’s new Caribbean setting.
  • Anglican Church designed by celebrated British Architect illustrates the importance of the Anglican Church in Colonial rule.
the royal academy painters
The Royal Academy Painters
  • A close look at 6 artists whose works were influenced by or a reaction to Imperial rule, colonization or decolonization.
  • “History painting” is most popular Genre in Europe.
  • The “Noble Savage”

A romantic idea or vision of what the native peoples were like in the exotic colonized lands.

A “history painting” depicting William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania.
  • Depicts a legendary meeting between William Penn and the Lenape Indians. A treaty to pay the Indians fabrics and goods for their land.
  • Painted 100 years after the event took place
  • Thomas Penn, son of William Penn commissioned the painting to help his reputation which was oppressive and abusive towards Native Americans.
  • Penn Treaty with the Indians, Benjamin West 1771-72
The painting suggests a harmonious relationship between The people of Tahiti and

The British. There is no interaction between the people themselves but the

Composition suggests a calm and peaceful scene.

The native boats and people are in the foreground of the painting creating

A linear perspective, leading the

Viewers eye to the British boats

Calmly nestled in the background.

(V formation “framing” the British


An atmospheric perspective is used

To create a crispness in the foreground

Contrasting the slightly out of focus

Background in the mountains.

The landscape was partially invented

Manipulated by the artist to create

An exotic feel. The volcanic mountains

Of Tahiti could not be seen from any

Coastline in reality.

The painting is Romantic and idealized to portray a colonization as in a positive light.

Reference to Madonna and Child…a Classical reference in European artistic training,

Can be seen with the woman and her baby in the foreground. The woman is shirtless

Depicting an exotic and Native style on the old classic.(hybrid)

“Slave Ship”(slavers throwing overboard the dead and dying, Typhoon coming on) Joseph Mallord William Turner, 1840
A critical View of European Domination, not idealized or romanticized as we’ve seen in the paintings by West and Hodges. His Impressionist style can be compared to Claude Monet. But when one gets a closer look you can see the desperate hands breaking the water.
  • Used to cause controversy and influence the public to join abolitionists in stopping the Transatlantic slave trade and abusive chattel

slave trading.

Slave Ship Turner, 1840

Purple and Rose: The Lange Leizen of the six marks

James Abbott McNeill Whistler,


Focus of the painting is on Chinese imports created exclusively for European

market. Whistler was a collector

of Chinese Wares. The ones seen here are of his private collection.

North American Born

traditionally schooled in Europe.

Not a fan of “history Painting”

Whistler was more of an impressionist. Creating mood with light and color.

Lady Receiving Visitors The Reception

John Frederick Lewis, 1873

Lewis, known for highly detailed paintings providing a glimpse of distant lands.
  • Invisible brushstrokes
  • Member of the royal academy
  • Primary medium was Watercolor and oils
  • Lived in Cairo
  • All attention focused on the lady of the house

Attention to detail about the relationship between the lady of the house and her many servants.

Gazelle was a popular animal in Egypt

representing female beauty

“Lady Receiving Visitors” Lewis, 1873

“The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters”

YinkaShonibar, 2008

Large ScalePhotograph fashioned

after Goya’s Etching from 1799

Almost an exact replica with emphasis

On the clothing.

The clothes are influenced by popular

Dutch Wax cloth prints created by

England specifically marketed for Africa.

1799 meets 2008 with political

Commentary and criticism.

The text on the desk is in French


“Do the dreams of reason produce monsters”

Suggesting that the imposition of the

Enlightenment ideals during colonization

may in fact create a few demons--such as

dictators "democratically" voted into power.

Goya’s, 1799

“The sleep of Reason Produces Monsters”


The artist's critique of his period's

political and social vices.