This MA considers an oceanic space—the Atlantic—and the images that were produced within it during the long eighteenth century. It explores an art history of the circum-Atlantic world, defined by the movements, confrontations and entanglements of African, European and American people and cultures in the era of the transatlantic slave trade. Three historical moments of revolution or rupture punctuate the course: the American Revolutionary War (1775-1783); the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804); and the British Emancipation Act (1833).
We will concentrate on three areas in particular: artworks and artists that crossed the Atlantic, particularly between North America, Britain, and the Caribbean; art made in mainland Britain that responded to Atlantic developments; and art produced in the Caribbean—including newly emergent African Diasporic art forms. We will also examine the legacy of these histories in the work of contemporary British artists. What role did visual images, material objects, and cultural practices play in constituting or resisting imperial power? How do notions of ‘British’ art change when viewed in Atlantic perspective? And what is the significance of this history for debates about decolonising cultural institutions in the twenty-first century?