Virtual Art Seminar

Bazille, Young Woman Peonies Impressioni

Black Heroes of Art

Discover the Unsung Black Artists & Models who Left their Mark on Art History 


Join an intimate community for four lively discussions on the representation of black people in art. In each class, we will learn about an important black artist or model. We will study art from 1800 to the present, observing societal shifts and artistic movements and the roles played by people of African descent therein. Finally, we will examine work by contemporary black artists. Inspired by two exhibitions – Posing Modernity at Columbia University (2018) and The Black Model at Musée d’Orsay (2019) – this series integrates cutting-edge research from scholars such as Denise Murrell, Cécile Bishop, James Smalls, and Wendy Grossman. No background in art necessary. All that's required is a curious mind. 


Sessions are led by Lauren Jimerson, PhD. in partnership with MoAD.

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Live From Paris, where we go beyond the Louvre!

"Black Heroes of Art" aims to stimulate a deeper understanding and spark conversations

on the history and importance of the black figure in art with friends from the MoAD community.

Discuss cutting-edge research which has redefined art history.

Learn about the ingenuity of black artists past and present. 

Connect with others and explore art, history, and culture.

Next Series:

Sundays at 11:30 am PST, October 25-November 15

Last year, Lauren spoke on France 24 about the "Black Models" exhibition held at Musée Orsay. 

Denise Murrell's pioneering research has drawn international attention to the topic of the representation of people of color in art. 

Discover Black Models & Artists Past and Present

Week 1: A Face with a Name

An emancipated slave from Guadeloupe, Madeleine appeared in a portrait by Marie-Guillemine Benoist. She was a domestic servant in the home of the artist's brother-in-law, a naval officer who had brought her back from the Antilles in the Caribbean. Her portrait was shown in the Paris Salon of 1800, but her identity was not revealed at the time and was subsequently forgotten. Thanks to recent archival research carried out by Marianne Levy, her first name was discovered. We will study this painting and its myriad interpretations.

Week 2: Manet's Laure into the Spotlight

With "Olympia" (1863), Manet transfigured the nude in a manner which reflected contemporary anxieties and ambiguities of gender and class, all the while refuting the academic conventions for the representation of the idealized nude. But while critics and scholars focused on the white female nude displayed prominently in the foreground, the black maidservant, Laure, largely escaped attention. We will learn about Denise Murrell’s groundbreaking research which has recently shed light on Olympia’s overshadowed counterpart, and learn how race, as much as gender and class, underpins modernity.

Week 3: From Circus to Stage

We will learn about the growing black community that transformed Paris with their cultural traditions, such as dance and jazz. We will discover the mixed-race Prussian circus star, Miss La La (Olga), and African-American performer Josephine Baker, the choreographer and anthropologist Katherine Dunham, and the Guadeloupean model Adrienne Fidelin. We will study their representations in works by Modern artists: Degas, Matisse, Man Ray, and Picasso. We will examine the multifaceted significance of the black figure in cultural life of early 20th century France.

Week 4: Remaking History

Black artists are remaking art history. We will study artists of color from the Harlem Renaissance to the present who have reinterpreted canonical works from the past, transfigured the genre of the nude, or transformed the subject of history painting, all the while placing the black figure in the spotlight. We will consider how artists such as Jacob Lawrence and Romare Bearden are critical to the history of modern painting. We will discuss how contemporary artists, including Faith Ringgold, Kehinde Wiley, Elizabeth Colomba and Mickalene Thomas, critically engage with issues of gender and race, as they deconstruct and expand the hallowed genres of portraiture and the nude and feature the black female subject. We will see how race has become one of the most dominant and vital subjects for artists today.