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Description: Art and Emancipation in Jamaica: Isaac Mendes Belisario and His Worlds
~This publication and the exhibition to which it relates are the results of an innovative collaboration that began within Yale University and has grown to include a network of academic and curatorial scholars and collectors across the world. The origins of the collaboration lie in a graduate seminar, “Art and the British Empire,” taught in...
PublisherYale Center for British Art
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Director’s Foreword
This publication and the exhibition to which it relates are the results of an innovative collaboration that began within Yale University and has grown to include a network of academic and curatorial scholars and collectors across the world. The origins of the collaboration lie in a graduate seminar, “Art and the British Empire,” taught in 2001 by Professor Tim Barringer in Yale’s Department of the History of Art. Specifically, a memorable presentation given by Barbaro Martinez-Ruiz (then a graduate student at Yale, but now Assistant Professor in the Department of Art and Art History, Stanford University) focused on Sketches of Character, In Illustration of the Habits, Occupation, and Costume of the Negro Population in the Island of Jamaica by Isaac Mendes Belisario. A fine set of this extraordinary and rare work—comprising twelve hand-colored lithographs and a letterpress—was included in one of Paul Mellon’s gifts to the Yale Center for British Art: the incomparable collection of illustrated books and prints relating to travel and social themes in Britain and the British Empire originally assembled by Major J. R. Abbey. In his presentation, Mr. Martinez-Ruiz pointed out the links between the dress and performance practice of Belisario’s masquerade figures with the West and Central African cultures that formed part of his doctoral research in the Department of the History of Art at Yale University under the direction of Professor Robert Farris Thompson. The Center’s curatorial specialist in British print culture, Gillian Forrester, attended the presentation and immediately connected Belisario’s vibrant lithographs with the European “Cries” tradition and with the illustrations to ethnological treatises so well represented in the Center’s collections. Thus, the idea for this exhibition was born from the collections through what was already an interdisciplinary meeting of minds.
In 2004 the curators of this ambitious project, Tim Barringer, Gillian Forrester, and Barbaro Martinez-Ruiz, traveled to Jamaica to undertake preliminary research for the exhibition. The curatorial team subsequently expanded to include other members of the Center’s intellectual community: two Postdoctoral Research Associates, Stéphane Roy and Eleanor Hughes, and two Graduate Research Assistants from Yale’s Department of the History of Art, Courtney Martin and Rebecca Peabody. Each brought different expertise to the research and selection process and has contributed significantly to the exhibition and publication. Further materials were contributed by Graham Boettcher (Yale College, Class of ’95 and Yale PhD 2007) and by Alexander Lee (Yale College, Class of ’07).
The intellectual framework of the exhibition and, especially, of this remarkable book, took shape through a seminar to which leading authorities in the field from across the Anglophone world were invited in 2006. Convened at the Center by Michael Hatt, Head of Research, this seminar gave rise to the essays in this book. Two distinguished historians, Verene Shepherd from the University of the West Indies at Mona and Catherine Hall of University College London, have provided broad contextual essays that vividly encapsulate the histories, local and global, discussed here. The interaction between British and Jamaican art is discussed by Yale’s own specialists, Gillian Forrester and Tim Barringer, who have also contributed the majority of the detailed catalogue entries that will provide a material resource for future work in the field. It is a special pleasure to be able to include in one of the Center’s publications the work of Robert Farris Thompson, dean of the study of the art of the African diaspora, as well as that of his former student, Barbaro Martinez-Ruiz, and their distinguished colleague Kenneth Bilby. We are especially grateful to Dr. Bilby, who is Director of Research at the Center for Black Music Research at Columbia College, Chicago, for drawing on his extensive fieldwork in Jamaica and for his assistance with the audio-visual aspects of the exhibition. Stephen Banfield, Professor of Music at the University of Bristol, adds a parallel essay on the Anglophone soundscape in Jamaica, from sea shanties and brass bands to opera. In this volume Professor Kay Dian Kriz—whose foundational work on the British Caribbean has been an inspiration to all of our contributors—and Dr. Holly Snyder, both of Brown University, explore aspects of Belisario’s Jewish identity, speaking to the significant contribution of the Jewish diaspora in nineteenth-century circum-Atlantic culture. And finally Stuart Hall, who grew up in Jamaica and whose work as a pioneer of cultural studies has been crucial in furthering the analysis of Caribbean and British society, provides a thoughtful afterword, in which he discusses the troubled and complex legacies of slavery and emancipation in the work of contemporary artists of Jamaican and Afro-Caribbean origin, many of them doubly diasporic figures, having moved from the Caribbean to London or New York.
Such a complex project could not have been brought to completion without the willing and generous help of others, and, along with the curators, I am indebted to a large number of friends and colleagues both at Yale and elsewhere, and to those working in the field for their advice, encouragement, and practical assistance.
Most notably, the Center has been the recipient of quite remarkable hospitality and support from collectors, scholars, and institutions in Jamaica, without which the project could never have taken place. In particular, I owe a deep debt to the Honourable Maurice William Facey and Mrs. Valerie Facey. Mrs. Facey orchestrated the curatorial team’s first visit to Jamaica, graciously sharing with them her many friends and professional contacts and providing them with a unique insight into Jamaican cultural life, both past and present. On behalf of the curators, I express my sincere gratitude to Mr. and Mrs. Facey for their extraordinary hospitality, both on the first and subsequent visits, and for their tireless support of the project. Mrs. Facey has a deep and enduring fascination with Isaac Mendes Belisario, whose works have been the starting-point and the center of this project, and she has generously shared many of her findings with our team. A biography of the artist produced in collaboration between Mrs. Facey and Mrs. Jackie Ranston is forthcoming from the Kingston publisher, the Mill Press, and will contain much new research that will complement the Center’s publication. Mr. and Mrs. Facey’s daughter Laura, a distinguished artist herself, shared her work, and the curatorial team is immensely grateful to her and her husband Gordon for their hospitality.
The project is also particularly indebted to David Boxer, Chief Curator and Director Emeritus at the National Gallery of Jamaica, for his support. Dr. Boxer has done more than anyone to establish a history of Jamaican art, through exhibitions, publications, and his devotion to developing the collections of the National Gallery of Jamaica, and the project has greatly benefited from his expertise and support. I am also extremely grateful to Jonathan Greenland, Director of the National Gallery of Jamaica, for his magnanimous support of the project, which has been beyond the call of duty. Dr. Greenland, Dr. Boxer, and the Board of the National Gallery have generously permitted the Center to undertake conservation work on an extraordinary group of landscape paintings by Isaac Mendes Belisario and granted additional loans from the collection. Profound thanks are also due to Winsome Hudson, Executive Director; Mrs. Eppie Edwards, Deputy Director; and the staff of The National Library of Jamaica for facilitating research and kindly lending and granting permission for conservation work on objects from the collections. Wayne Modest, Director of the Museum of History and Ethnography, Institute of Jamaica, has been a constant source of advice to the curators and has provided logistical help throughout the project’s long evolution. I would like to extend my thanks to Mr. Modest, his colleague David Stimpson, and the staff of the Institute of Jamaica for their support of the project, and to Vivian Crawford, Executive Director of the Institute of Jamaica, and its Board for generously agreeing to lend. I am also deeply indebted to Wallace Campbell; Christopher Issa; and Tony, Sheila, and Blaise Hart of Good Hope for their warm hospitality to the curatorial team and for lending critical works to the exhibition, several of which have never been exhibited or reproduced before. On behalf of the curators, I must express thanks for the debt they owe to John Aarons, Government Archivist at the Jamaica Archives and Records Department, and to Gracelyn Cassell, Librarian, West Indies Collection at the Library of University of West Indies, Mona, and their colleagues for assistance with research. The curators are also grateful to the following friends and colleagues in Jamaica for their hospitality and for supporting the project in innumerable ways: Petrine Archer-Straw, Joyce Campbell, Michael Gardner, Ainsley Henriques, Marcia Hextall, Peter and Joan McConnell, Knolly Moses, Ted Musquette, Annie Paul, Veerle Poupeye, Dennis and Jackie Ranston, James Robertson, Linda Speth, Sonjah Stanley-Niaah, Peter Sturridge, and Louis and Tamara Williams. The Edna Manly Foundation graciously gave permission to reproduce Edna Manly’s sculpture, Negro Aroused, in this book.
As always, exhibitions and their attendant publications depend first and foremost on the generosity of the lenders. I am indebted to all those individuals and institutions in the United States, Britain, and Europe who have parted with their treasured objects in order to further this project: John Abbott; Baroness von Maltzahn; the Baltimore Museum of Art; the Musée des beaux-arts, Bernay; Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University; The British Museum; Cambridgeshire Archives and Local Studies; the Cantor Arts Center, Stanford University; Mr. and Mrs. Eustace Crawley; The Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge; The Fowler Museum of Cultural History at UCLA; Phyllis Galembo; the Jewish Museum, London; Manuel Jordán; the Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University; The Library of Congress; the National Maritime Museum, London; the National Portrait Gallery, London; the Peabody Museum, Yale University; the Spanish and Portuguese Jews’ Congregation, London; the Victoria and Albert Museum, London; the Yale University Art Gallery; and the Yale University Library.
On behalf of the curators, I would like to extend thanks to the staffs of the following institutions who also provided help with research: Simon Fenwick of the Bankside Gallery; Nicole Zapata Aubé, Delphine Campagnolle, and Catherine Claisse of the Musée des beaux-arts, Bernay; Anne Forschler-Tarrasch of the Birmingham Museum of Art, Alabama; The British Library; Guildhall Library, City of London; Karin Marin of the Jewish Museum, London; Sara Willett Duke, Tambra Johnson, and Helena Zinkham of the Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress; the New York Public Library; Sarah Pearsall of the Department of History at Northwestern University; Mark Pomeroy of the Royal Academy Library; the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, London; Samuel Scott of the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem; the Schomburg Center; Howard Miller and Cynthia Jesner of the Spanish and Portuguese Jews’ Congregation, London; and Richard Edgcumbe of the Victoria and Albert Museum. The project is particularly indebted to Nicholas Draper, who is currently pursuing a doctoral degree at University College London on the topic of the reparations paid to former slaveholders by the British government upon the abolition of slavery in the British colonies. Mr. Draper has provided invaluable data relating to the subscribers to Belisario’s Sketches of Character, which appears in an appendix to this volume. Catherine Benoît has generously shared her ongoing research on slave gardens in the Caribbean. Stephen Kornhauser and Anne O’Connor have done a marvelous job conserving a group of paintings by Isaac Mendes Belisario and their frames from the collection of the National Gallery of Jamaica.
At Yale, the curatorial team has benefited from the scholarship and advice of colleagues including Hazel Carby, Terri Francis, Liliane Guerra, Joseph Roach, Stuart Schwartz, and Robert Farris Thompson. David Blight, Dana Schaffer, and Thomas Thurston of the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition at Yale have been enthusiastic supporters of the project and will make it the focus of their ninth annual international conference, which they are generously co-sponsoring with the Center. Suzanne Boorsch, Erin E. Eisenbarth, John Gordon, Lisa Hodermarsky, John ffrench, Patricia E. Kane, and William E. Metcalf at the Yale University Art Gallery, as well as the staffs of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, the Peabody Museum, and the Sterling Map Collection have provided extensive assistance and support throughout the development and implementation of the exhibition and publication. Particular thanks must be extended to Susanne Roberts and Cesar Rodriguez of the Yale University Library who generously agreed to purchase microfilm copies of Jamaican newspapers for the relevant period; these have proved an indispensable research resource for the project.
The creation of this volume has been overseen with characteristic aplomb by Julia Marciari Alexander, who has also coordinated the exhibition. Kristin Swan of the Center and Yale University Press masterminded the editing of this extremely complex publication with extraordinary commitment and good humor, and Daphne Geismar has worked tirelessly to design and produce this beautiful book. Richard Slovak has proved an assiduous copyeditor and has done much to weld a fragmentary text into a coherent whole. Anna Magliaro has undertaken the daunting task of collecting photographic material for the volume with great efficiency and good cheer. Melissa Fournier, Richard Caspole, and Corey Meyers have heroically undertaken much of the photography at the Center, an immense task. Cassandra Albinson, Catherine Labio, Morna O’Neill, Katherine Prior, Greg Smith, John Wells, Timothy Wilcox, Sarah Pearsall, Jennifer Raab, Stéphane Roy, and Scott Wilcox read sections of the manuscript, and the curators are grateful to them for their insights. The Center is also indebted to the artists who generously supplied images and gave permission to reproduce their works in Stuart Hall’s essay: Sonia Boyce, David Boxer, Lubaina Himid, Joy Gregory, Roshini Kempadoo, Hew Locke, Keith Piper, and K. Khalfani Ra.
The curatorial project has been magisterially led by Gillian Forrester, in concert with the Center’s superb registrarial team under the direction of Timothy Goodhue. A project of such complexity could not have come to fruition without a deep institutional commitment, and all the Center’s staff have contributed in some way. In particular, the staffs of the Prints and Drawings and Rare Books and Manuscripts Departments, past and present, have worked tirelessly on the project and special thanks are due to Phillip Basner, Adrianna Bates, Laura Gardner, John Monahan, Maria Rossi, and their student assistants, Lucy FitzGibbon and Yasemine Tarhan. Mark Aronson and Theresa Fairbanks Harris, with Dong-Eun Kim and Kohleen Reeder, have undertaken the challenging conservation requirements for the exhibition. The elegant design of the exhibition has been crafted by independent exhibition designer Stephen Saitas, in concert with the Center’s Lyn Bell Rose and Elena Grossman, and the Center’s installation team, led by Richard Johnson. Michael Hatt, Jane Nowosadko, Linda Friedlaender, Cyra Levenson, and Serena Guerrette have created a program of accompanying events that will greatly amplify and illuminate the exhibition and publication. The project has also benefited from the knowledge and judgment of the Center’s curators, Cassandra Albinson, Elisabeth Fairman, Angus Trumble, and Scott Wilcox.
Special thanks must go to the following people, who have assisted with the project in innumerable ways: Susan Brady, Enrique Chagoya, Jean-Louis Coquerel, John Curley, Cheryl Finley, Adrian Fletcher, Ruth Forrester, Sophie Forrester, Bryan Fuermann, Jorge Gomez-Tejada, Lars Kokkonen, Susanna Lawrence, John McAleer, Morna O’Neill, Geoff Quilley, Bud Shark, Greg Smith, Guilland Sutherland, James Walvin, Ian Warrell, John Wells, and Timothy Wilcox.
Publications of this magnitude cannot be produced without substantial financial support, both at the research and implementation stages. The Center is profoundly grateful to Jane Gregory Rubin and The Reed Foundation for their unflagging enthusiasm for this project, of which they are major supporters. Their partnership is critical to this project as a whole, and I express my sincere thanks to them.
Finally, I am most deeply indebted to the exhibition’s curators, Tim Barringer, Gillian Forrester, and Barbaro Martinez-Ruiz, for pressing forward the very finest of intellectual collaborations on a global scale. Art & Emancipation in Jamaica: Isaac Mendes Belisario and His Worlds will serve as a model for the Center’s projects from this point forward.
Amy Meyers
Director, Yale Center for British Art
Director’s Foreword
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