Black Art is a principle where anything painted black cannot be seen when placed against a black background.
Max Auzinger is credited with the discovery of Black Art around 1885, when he discovered the principle by accident while watching a black-faced actor playing a scene set in a dark dungeon. Only the man's white teeth and eyes were visible when watching from the stage.
In The Magic Wand, Vol. 5, No. 6, Feb. 1915, page 97, Charles De Vere explained in a letter to the Editor of the Magic Wand that he has seen Ben Ali Bey (Max Auzinger) presented this form of illusion in Antwerp (Belgium. Anvers in French) in 1873.
Dr. Lynn's "Thauma", another black art illusion was exhibited in 1884 and Thauma may have been exhibited before 1879 at the Folies Bergere in Paris.
Ottokar Fischer said in his Illustrated Magic (1931) that "As early as the first half of the nineteenth century, various magicians were presenting a spectacular illusion still found in the programs of illusionists today, 'The Vanishing Horse.' Sometimes it is a horse and rider, again it may be ten or twelve persons, who disappear, but the principle is always the same".
According to Max Maven on the genii forum, Magic Christian has found a published account that offers evidence that Black Art was used by Pinetti in 1789. The description is of a performance with key details that make it fairly certain that Black Art is the method.
- Conjuring Credits' article on illusion:black_art