Figures of Empire: Slavery and Portraiture in Eighteenth-Century Atlantic Britain

Event time: 
Thursday, October 2, 2014 (All day) to Sunday, December 14, 2014 (All day)
Event description: 
On view at the Yale Center for British Art from October 2 through December 14, 2014, this exhibition explores the relationship between the transatlantic slave trade and portraiture in eighteenth-century metropolitan Britain. The rise of the British Empire, fueled by enslaved labor on plantations in the North Atlantic world, contributed to a period of economic and cultural growth in Britain. It also brought unprecedented numbers of Africans and people of African and Afro-American descent, both enslaved and free, to the British mainland. Featuring paintings, drawings, prints, sculpture, and decorative arts, Figures of Empire studies the impact of these developments on the ubiquitous artistic genre of the time: the portrait.
 
Exhibition Opening Panel Discussion 
Wednesday, October 8 
Figures of Empire: Slavery and Portraiture in Eighteenth-Century Atlantic Britain 
A conversation with Tim Barringer, Paul Mellon (Professor of the History of Art, Yale University); Kobena Mercer (Professor, History of Art and American Studies, Yale University); and Titus Kaphar; artist.
 
Art in Context Talks 
Tuesday, October 14
Figures of Empire: What Makes a Portrait? 
Meredith Gamer (PhD Candidate, Department of the History of Art, Yale University)
 
Tuesday, November 11 
Figures of Empire: Joshua Reynolds
Esther Chadwick (PhD Candidate, Department of the History of Art, Yale University)
 
Tuesday, December 9
Figures of Empire: Flexible Histories
Cyra Levenson (Associate Curator of Education, Yale Center for British Art)
 
16th Annual International Conference
Friday, November 7 - 8
Visualizing Slavery and British Culture in the Eighteenth Century
This two-day international conference will coincide with the Center’s Figures of Empire Exhibition. Using a cross-disciplinary approach, the conference will help place the works in the exhibition in a historical context– Britain and its empire from roughly the 1720s to the early 1800s– and explore the impact of slavery on British art and culture. This conference is jointly organized with the Gilder Lehrman Center and will be held at the Yale Center for British Art, 1080 Chapel Street, New Haven, CT.
 
Lewis Walpole Library Exhibition
October 20, 2014 - March 27, 2015 
Prospects of Empire: Slavery and Ecology in Eighteenth-Century Atlantic Britain
Curated by Heather V. Vermuelen (Doctoral Candidate in African American Studies and American Studies, Yale University) and Hazel V. Carby (Charles
C. & Dorathea S. Dilley Professor of African American Studies and Professor of American Studies, Yale University), this exhibition explores the notion of the empire’s endeavors to capitalize upon seized land and labor, as well as its failures to manage enslaved persons and unruly colonial forces. The exhibition also features a selection of four lithographs from Joscelyn Gardner’s series Creole Portraits III: “bringing down the flowers” (2009–11), a recent joint acquisition by the Yale Center for British Art and the Yale University Art Gallery.
Lewis Walpole Library, 154 Main Street, Farmington, CT
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