Taking a multi-disciplinary approach that combines the history of art and the history of ideas, this exhibition explores aesthetic, political, social and racial issues as well as the imagery unveiled by the representation of black figures in visual arts, from the abolition of slavery in France (1794) to the modern day. Designed to provide a long-term perspective, the exhibition looks more particularly at three key periods: the era of abolition (1794-1848), the new painting era up to the Matisse’s discovery of the Harlem Renaissance and the early 20th century avant-garde movement and the successive generations of post-war and contemporary artists.
The exhibition primarily focuses on the question of models, and therefore the dialogue between the artist who paints, sculpts, engraves or photographs and the model who poses. It notably explores the way in which the representation of black subjects in major works by Théodore Géricault, Charles Cordier, Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, Edouard Manet, Paul Cézanne and Henri Matisse, as well as the photographs of Nadar and Carjat, evolved. Curators Cécile Debray, chief heritage curator, director of the Musée de l'Orangerie Stéphane Guégan, scientific advisor to the president of the Musées d’Orsay et de l’Orangerie Denise Murrell, Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Research Scholar at the Wallach Art Gallery Edouard Papet, general curator at the Musée d'Orsay Isolde Pludermacher, curator at the Musée d'Orsay