N.B. This review was published without its final two paragraphs in the 18th December 2010 issue of The Spectator. These paragraphs have been reinstated for the online version below.
These volumes — four for now, and a further six to come — are saddled with a title redolent of lantern lectures delivered in Godalming, say, round about the time that Rorke’s Drift became legendary overnight. The Image of the Black suggests people, or things, of a certain stamp. Penny blacks, so to speak: picked out with tweezers, profiles raised, their blackness being their distinction, their black face value assessed within the swelling majesty of Western Art. That was the idea, anyway, back in the Sixties when Dominique Schlumberger de Menil, co-founder of the de Menil Foundation in Houston, Texas, thought how good it would be to assemble a photo archive of fine art down the ages in which the ‘Image of the Black’ could be seen to figure, no matter how marginally.