- 19 July 2022
Slavery, Sugar, and the Culture of Refinement: Picturing the British West Indies, 1700–1840 by Kay Dian Kriz is now available exclusively on Yale’s Art & Architecture ePortal.
Published by the Paul Mellon Centre, this highly original book asks new questions about paintings and prints associated with the British West Indies between 1700 and 1840, when the trade in sugar and slaves was most active and profitable. In a wide-ranging study of scientific illustrations, scenes of daily life, caricatures and landscape imagery, Kay Dian Kriz analyses the visual culture of refinement that accompanied the brutal process by which enslaved African people transformed 'rude' sugar cane into pure white crystals.
In these works refinement is usually associated with the metropole, and 'rudeness' with the colonies. Many artists capitalised on those characteristics of rudeness – animality, sensuality and savagery – that increasingly became associated with all the island inhabitants. Yet other artists produced works that offered the possibility of colonial refinement, not just economic profit and sexual pleasure, thus complicating perceptions of difference between the two sides of the Atlantic.
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