False Narratives and Altered History of Black Individuals in Dutch Art

One aspect of the visual depictions included in Blakley’s work was the use of space to portray Black people as less than, or servantly. Blakely pointed out that paintings showing Black individuals to be situated lower than the White man or woman did much to cement the negative stereotypes of Black people as docile servants who exist to serve White people. Not only does the physical placement of Black people in these paintings point to the reality of racial inequalities at various points throughout Dutch history, but the implementation of snarling dogs further projects the notion that man’s loyal best friend does not trust or respect Black people, as if they are worth less than animals.

After observing these negative portrayals of Black people in Blakely’s piece, it was surprising to see the more positive images shown in Stephanie Archangel and Nicola Jennings’ video. To see the two Black men painted as individuals with strong stature and sat in the central part of the paintings was a welcome change. This exhibit’s work of highlighting examples of Black strength and success is an important juxtaposition to the demeaning narrative that more mainstream imagery has furthered. It was fascinating when they noted that this image construction has had detrimental effects on Black people today, given that their history has been altered and misconstrued and has caused some crisis of identity.


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