Agostino Brunias

Agostino Brunias, 1730 to 1796, was a London-based Italian painter from Rome. Strongly associated with West Indian art, he left England at the height of his career to chronicle Dominica and the neighboring islands of the West Indies. Painted in the tradition of verite ethnographique, his art was as escapist as it was romantic. After Brunais met the Scottish architect Robert Adam, who was on a Grand Tour of Europe, he studied the magnificent ruins of Italy, as he called them, between 1756 and 1758. He became employed as a draughtsman by Adam, joining him in England in 1758, and painted many of Adam’s architecturally elegant buildings in England. Adam, praising his works, called Brunias a bred painter. His paintings of murals and paintings covered the interior walls of many English stately homes and exhibited at the Free Society of Artists in London. Although Brunias was initially commissioned to depict upper-class plantation life, his works assumed what was considered to be a subversive political role in the Caribbean, endorsing a free, anti-slavery society, and exposing the artificiality of racial hierarchies in the West Indies. He was particularly adept at painting Negro festivals, dances, markets, and other related cultural traditions and producing paintings showing interaction between the natives and the wealthy colonial settlers.

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