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The Color of Stone

Sculpting the Black Female Subject in Nineteenth-Century America

2007
Author:

Charmaine A. Nelson

The Color of Stone

How do we “see” race when the color of skin is stone

In The Color of Stone, Charmaine A. Nelson brilliantly analyzes a key, but often neglected, aspect of neoclassical sculpture—color. By establishing the centrality of race within the discussion of neoclassical sculpture, Nelson provides a model for a black feminist art history that at once questions and destabilizes canonical texts.

In The Color of Stone, the fields of art history, feminist theory, postcolonial theory, and critical race theory are brought into new and mutually fruitful dialogue with one another. Charmaine Nelson has not just broken new ground; her study is an intellectual watershed.

Judith Wilson, independent scholar, Irvine, California

Nineteenth-century neoclassical sculpture was a highly politicized international movement. Based in Rome, many expatriate American sculptors created works that represented black female subjects in compelling and problematic ways. Rejecting pigment as dangerous and sensual, adherence to white marble abandoned the racialization of the black body by skin color.

In The Color of Stone, Charmaine A. Nelson brilliantly analyzes a key, but often neglected, aspect of neoclassical sculpture—color. Considering three major works—Hiram Powers’s Greek Slave, William Wetmore Story’s Cleopatra, and Edmonia Lewis’s Death of Cleopatra—she explores the intersection of race, sex, and class to reveal the meanings each work holds in terms of colonial histories of visual representation as well as issues of artistic production, identity, and subjectivity. She also juxtaposes these sculptures with other types of art to scrutinize prevalent racial discourses and to examine how the black female subject was made visible in high art.

By establishing the centrality of race within the discussion of neoclassical sculpture, Nelson provides a model for a black feminist art history that at once questions and destabilizes canonical texts.

The Color of Stone

Charmaine A. Nelson is associate professor of art history at McGill University.

The Color of Stone

In The Color of Stone, the fields of art history, feminist theory, postcolonial theory, and critical race theory are brought into new and mutually fruitful dialogue with one another. Charmaine Nelson has not just broken new ground; her study is an intellectual watershed.

Judith Wilson, independent scholar, Irvine, California

Passionate scholarship that both academics and general readers can enjoy.

Herizons

When a Hollywood movie is made of Edmonia Lewis’s working life and struggle in Rome’s bubbling, competitive art world, Charmaine A. Nelson’s valuable book will further be a resource.

Leonardo Reviews

In The Color of Stone, Charmaine Nelson has opened up new ways of looking at Neoclassical sculpture and introduced creative avenues for thinking about its powerful cultural meanings. In so doing, she has provided a great service to American art historians.

caa.reviews

Without question, The Color of Stone is an exceptionally well-researched text; and its premise is an intriguing one.

Women’s Art Journal

Charmaine Nelson’s The Color of Stone is a fascinating contribution to nineteenth-century African American studies and to art history broadly.

African American Review