Programs And Events

Jean-Baptiste Debret in Brazil: Representing Colonial Subjects

March 26, 2019, 6:00 PM

Jean-Baptiste Debret in Brazil: Representing Colonial Subjects

The Bark Room, Room M104, Sheila C. Johnson Design Center


Eugene Lang College invites you to attend the following job talk for the Visual Studies department:

Iliana Cepero-Amador

Tuesday, March 26, 6PM

The Bark Room, 2 W 13th St. Room M104

Abstract for “Jean-Baptiste Debret in Brazil: Representing Colonial Subjects”: The French painter Jean-Baptiste Debret’s three volumes on nineteenth-century Brazil, ‘Viagem pitoresca e histórica ao Brasil,’ is often regarded as a historical, revolutionary discourse of Brazil’s progressive development towards civilization. However, by analyzing Debret’s representation of slavery, this talk will demonstrate how the painter, through his art, legitimated the imperial racial policies of early Brazilian nationalism. On the one hand, Debret's visual depiction of blacks echoed early nineteenth-century scientific theories in France that sought to relate physical appearance with moral and mental attributes. On the other hand, his ideas adhered to a language of progress—and a vision of civilization as advancing through stages—that allowed for a ‘democratic’ polity to justify its slave-holding practices and to construct a vision of a ‘divinely harmonious’ universe. Due to the fear of the potential effects of the Haitian Revolution, Debret’s work can be seen as establishing a pictorial, mediating “buffer zone” for a reassuring and controlled reality.  Via the use of the picturesque aesthetic, his illustrations show the struggle to accommodate the representation of slavery to this divine order of the universe. 


Bio: Iliana Cepero-Amador (PhD Art History, Stanford University) is an art historian, curator, and art critic. Cepero is a Visiting Assistant Professor of Visual Studies at the New School and teaches courses on Latin American art and visual culture; histories and theories of photography; postcolonial studies. She recently curated the exhibition Cuba Is, at the Annenberg Space for Photography as part of the Getty’s initiative Pacific Standard Time LA/LA (September 2017), and ¡Cuba, Cuba! 65 years of Photography, organized by the International Center of Photography at the Southampton Arts Center, Long Island, NY (August 2015).  Among her publications are “Photographic Propaganda under Peronism (1946-1955). Selections from the Archivo General de la Nación Argentina,” in History of Photography (May 2016), “Reading Tatlin’s Tower in Socialist Cuba,” Art Journal, (Summer 2018), “Luc Chessex, Robert Frank, and the Representation of Labour in the Magazine Cuba/Cuba Internacional, 1968 and 1971,” Art History (November 2018), and “Martín Fierro, Argentine Nationalism and the Return to Order,” MODERNISM/modernity (January 2019). She is currently working on a book manuscript on post-war Argentinean art under Peronismo.


This job talk is presented by the department of Visual Studies at Eugene Lang College.

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