The National Portrait Gallery in partnership with Autograph ABP presents a unique ‘snapshot’ of black lives and experiences in Britain. An important display of photographs, which will reveal some of the stories of Black and Asian lives in Britain from the 1860s through to the 1940s, opens at the National Portrait Gallery.

Black Chronicles: Photographic Portraits 1862-1948 will bring together some of the earliest photographs of Black and Asian sitters in the National Portrait Gallery’s Collection.

These will be exhibited alongside recently discovered images from the Hulton Archive, a division of Getty Images. The display of over 40 photographs will highlight an important and complex black presence in Britain before 1948, a watershed moment when the Empire Windrush brought the first group of Caribbean migrants to Great Britain.

In addition, Black Chronicles: Photographic Portraits 1862-1948 will highlight new acquisitions including a series of portraits by Angus McBean, of Les Ballets Nègres, Britain’s first all-black ballet company and a selection of photographs of the pioneer of classical Indian dance in Britain, Pandit Ram Gopal, by George Hurrell.

Individuals with extraordinary stories, from performers to dignitaries, politicians and musicians, alongside unidentified sitters, will collectively reveal the diversity of representation within 19th and 20th century photography and British society, often absent from historical narratives of the period.

They will include the celebrated portraits by Camille Silvy of Sarah Forbes Bonetta, one of the earliest photographic portraits of a black sitter in the Gallery’s Collection. Born in West Africa of Yoruba descent, Sarah was captured at the age of five during the Okeadon War. She was thought to be of royal lineage and was presented to Queen Victoria, as if a gift, from King Gezo of Dahomy. As Queen Victoria’s protégée, Sarah was raised among the British upper class and educated in both England and Sierra Leone. In 1862, she married the merchant and philanthropist James Pinson Labulo Davies.

Black Chronicles: Photographic Portraits 1862-1948 will also feature Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, a celebrated British composer of English and Sierra Leonean descent who was once called the ‘African Mahler’; Dadabhai Naoroji, the first British Indian MP for Finsbury in 1892; members of the African Choir, a troupe of entertainers from South Africa who performed for Queen Victoria in 1891; international boxing champion Peter Jackson a.k.a ‘The Black Prince’ from the island of St Croix; and Ndugu M’Hali (Kalulu), the ‘servant’ of British explorer Sir Henry Morton Stanley, who inspired Stanley’s 1873 book My Kalulu, Prince, King and Slave: A Story of Central Africa.

Black Chronicles: Photographic Portraits 1862-1948 will include original albumen cartes-de-visite and cabinet cards from the Gallery’s permanent Collection, presented alongside a series of large-scale modern prints from 19th century glass plates in the Hulton Archive’s London Stereoscopic Company collection, which were recently unearthed by Autograph ABP for the first time in 135 years and first shown in the critically acclaimed exhibition ‘Black Chronicles II’ at Rivington Place in 2014.

Suggested Hashtag for this event: #BlackChronicles 

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Event Date: 18/05/2016 – 11/12/2016

Venue details: National Portrait Gallery | St Martin’s Place London WC2H 0HE  

Organisers: The National Portrait Gallery and Autograph ABP

Event website:  Black Chronicles 

Event cost: Free

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