The Easel

27th February 2024

The Met is having a Black moment with the ‘Harlem Renaissance and Transatlantic Modernism’ show

The 1920’s Great Migration brought many Blacks to New York’s Harlem. New ideas about the “new Negro man” encouraged creativity in music and literature – the Harlem Renaissance. The visual arts, however, received scant attention, even though they produced a new “cosmopolitan Black aesthetic”. That aesthetic, says a curator, was a central force in American modernism because it “sought to portray the modern Black subject in a radically modern way.” Background on the Harlem Renaissance is here.

20th February 2024

He toiled in obscurity – but now Saul Leiter is recognised as a true photography pioneer

Leiter was exploring colour photography decades before William Eggleston came along. Alongside the occasional fashion assignment, the unambitious Leiter devoted decades to taking images of his New York neighbourhood, They reveal a slightly abstract and oddly tranquil view of its streets, says one writer, “less social commentary and more about the beauty of urban life”. Leiter admitted that he “aspired to be unimportant”. Says this writer “poignantly beautiful work …a great photographer”. Images are here.

‘Africa & Byzantium’ at the MET: A Stunning Look at One of History’s Overlooked Stories

The last configuration of the Roman empire – the Byzantine empire –  ruled the eastern Mediterranean and North Africa. Scholars debate much of its complicated history but all agree it should be less Euro-centric. In particular, art produced in northern Africa was distinguished and influential. One critic, whose review is somewhat more sceptical than the linked piece, calls the show “a fantastic achievement”. The writer agrees – this show “is incredibly important to art history”.