Neoclassicism, Race and Empire - Anne Lafont

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Speaker: Professor Anne Lafont (L'École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales)

‘African Art as a Product of Neoclassical Thought’

The aim of this paper is to consider the making of African art in neoclassical thought, in other words to question, through the study of two fundamental texts: Le culte des Dieux Fétiches by Abbé Charles de Brosses (1760) and The History of the Art of Antiquity by Johann-Joachim Winckelmann (1764), the orchestration of the place of Africa and its objects in the emergence of art history as a discipline. The presentation and commentary of a few eloquent excerpts should open the discussion on a set of elements that happened to be systemic in the process of qualification of African objects from fetish to art, at the time of the intensification of the Atlantic slave trade and colonial slavery by the European empires.

This is the second of three events in the Neoclassicism, Race, and Empire seminar series.

This series examines the intersection between neoclassicism and questions of race, colonisation, empire-building, and national identity. With a focus on the British and French Atlantic worlds from the eighteenth century onwards, but with attention to a broader geographical field, we will ask how classical ideas and forms were invoked in art, architecture, and aesthetics in ways that intersected with colonial expansion, the assertion of imperial power, and the development of racial ideologies. Through a series of seminars led by pioneering scholars in this field, we will explore the stylistic phenomenon of ‘neoclassicism’ within its broadest political and cultural contexts, while discussing the longer historiographical legacy of self-consciously classical art made in the modern age of empire. 


Other seminars in the series:

Charmaine A. Nelson: Wednesday 2 March, 4pm – 5.30pm GMT (11am – 12.30pm EST)

Louis Nelson: Wednesday 30 March, 4pm – 5.30pm BST (11am – 12.30pm EST)