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Title: "Disagreeable mirror though one may be" : portraits of James Baldwin, 1945-65
Author: Prombaum, Levi
ISNI:       0000 0004 7970 6275
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2019
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During the two decades that James Baldwin wrote his most popular novels and essays, Beauford Delaney, Carl Van Vechten and Richard Avedon created multiple images of their friend. This thesis details the history of these collaborations, tracing Baldwin's rise from subcultural to national fame through the preoccupations of his imagers. In each of these encounters, Baldwin's imagers parallel his own strategies of bodily and textual collapse, creating figures that are porous to history and to each other. Their serial portraits index a wider trend in mid-twentieth century black aesthetic practice, in which the structural conditions of racial fantasy and intergenerational trauma manifest in the artwork as principal objects of visual interrogation. As these artworks pressure and rework portraiture's reflective pretensions, they translate and expand the languages of Baldwin's work. These portraits offer a new set of archival entanglements between mid-twentieth century America's literary and visual scenes, and offer a fuller understanding of Baldwin's shrewd and meticulous self-fashioning. The case studies in this thesis span four different contexts: painted and drawn portraits made across a lifetime of mentorship and friendship (Delaney); photographs taken for an encyclopedic project in a single session (Van Vechten); biographical photo-essays introducing Baldwin to readers of popular periodicals (Ebony, Time, and Life); and bursts of photographic collaboration in moments of social upheaval (Avedon).
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available