Films made for the exhibition Black is beautiful. Rubens to Dumas (2008)

In the coming years many Dutch museums, and possibly foreign ones, will pay attention to ‘black’ people in European visual art or European history. At the moment I get requests for information almost weekly about this subject, f.i. the BBC last week. I this last case I could refer the journalist to the one and only person who could answer all her questions: Prof. Elizabeth McGrath.

Herewith the result.

A lot was already addressed by Elizabeth McGrath in f.i. the exhibition catalog Black is beautiful. Rubens to Dumas, the films made for that exhibition and the documentary Painted Black / Zwart belicht by Tessa Boerman.

black-is-beautiful-(photo Pieter Roozen)
black-is-beautiful-(photo Pieter Roozen)

Below more films that were made for the exhibition. In these films more possible answers on pressing questions that arise now. The films are based on the research that was done at the time by a group of scientists (see the catalogue Black is beautiful, Rubens to Dumas) .

A film about Rembrandt:

PP  Rubens

And Rubens and the Black Magi with prof. Jean Michel Massing.

Queen Sheba with Elizabeth McGrath.

Stedman and Joanna

KNIL Soldiers

But also Jimmy van der Lak (model for a painting by Nola Hatterman)

And Jazz in Art.

And Josephine Baker in art

And Naomi Campbell by Marlene Dumas.

And Ina van Zyl

And more. (Iris Kensmil, more Rembrandt, etc.)

The films have all been made more than ten years ago, but some may be able to help the current exhibitionmakers and writers on their way. The subject suddenly seems to become urgent at last.

The films are almost all (except Iris Kensmil) put on YouTube by IDtv.

About me (EN):

In 2008 I was guest curator of the exhibition Black is beautiful. Rubens to Dumas. Important advisors: Elizabeth McGrath (Rubens and colleagues, Warburg institute Image of the Black in Western Art collection), Carl Haarnack (slavery in books), Elmer Kolfin (slavery in prints and paintings) en Adi Martis (contemporary art). Gary Schwartz made his research for The Image of the Black in Western Art available to me.

Black beautiful Rubens to Dumas cover
Black beautiful Rubens to Dumas cover

In 2014 my essay ‘Painted Blacks and Radical Imagery in the Netherlands (1900-1940)’ was published in The Image of the Black in Western Art Volume V (I). (ed. David Bindman, Henry Louis Gates jr.)

In 2017 I published a book about the black servants at the Court of the Royal Van Oranje family. More than a thousand documents have been found about their lives. (only in Dutch)

Cupido en Sideron Cover 30-8-2017

All photos on this site are not intended for any commercial purpose. I have tried to trace all the rules and rights of all images. As far as I know, these images can be used in this way. If you ar a copyright holder and would like a piece of your work removed or the creditline changed then please do not hesitate to contact me.

1 Comment

  1. Dank je wel Esther!

    Met vriendelijke groet,

    Mirjam Westen
    Curator contemporary art
    +3126 3031433


    Temporary address:
    p/a Weerdjesstraat 70
    6811 JE Arnhem



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