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ART_101-6_SP23: First Year Seminar: Black Portraiture (Byrd)

Subject Specialist

Profile Photo
Cara List
Art Collection
Deering Library, 3rd Floor
Northwestern University Library
1970 Campus Dr.
Evanston, IL 60208

Library Assistant

Perry Nigro

Drop-in Office Hours:

Tuesday 1-2PM at Kresge Cafe
Thursday 2-3PM at Kresge Cafe


Course Description

Portraiture by Black artists has gained widespread prominence and visibility in recent decades, whether in the form of national portraits such as those of Barack and Michelle Obama, large-scale public art commissions, or through attention to prison photo studios that document self-expression and familial relations among incarcerated subjects. One of the most popular and potent sites of cultural, social, and political contestation, “Black portraiture” has emerged as an expansive category of inquiry across the fields of art history and cultural studies. In this first-year seminar, students will engage a range of approaches to Black figural representation from the early twentieth century to the present. We will analyze how artists and ordinary subjects have used film, painting, photography, and sculpture to generate representations of themselves and others in order to address issues including but not limited to beauty, class, gender and sexuality, racism and antiblack violence, modernity, and decolonization. Students will learn how to interpret, discuss, and write about portrait-based objects in terms of their material form, circulation, reproduction, sites of display, and patronage.

Kehinde Wiley
Barack Obama
oil on canvas
213.7 x 147cm
National Portrait Gallery