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Amy Helene Kirschke

painter, printmaker, and collage artist. Romare Howard Bearden was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, on 12 September 1911, to Richard Howard and Bessye Bearden. Although he only spent two years in North Carolina, his grandparents conveyed a sense of history and connection to the South, a connection that was reflected in his work throughout his career. Most of his childhood and adult life were spent in New York. He moved to New York in 1914, and then to Harlem in 1920. His mother, Bessye, was elected to the New York City school board in 1922 education was of paramount importance in his family Bearden had an expansive diverse career and is considered one of the finest American artists of the twentieth century He had an interest in political social and cultural issues including the visual arts music and literature He was particularly ...

Article

While many urban centers boasted a flowering of Black creative energies early in the twentieth century, New York was the epicenter of Black engagement with modern art fueled by modern attitudes, and remained a hub for avant-garde Black artists through the twentieth century. There is no more important episode in this phenomenon than the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 1930s and no more important locale than New York City’s Harlem. This movement was largely inspired by Alain Locke’s compendium of essays that first came together in “Harlem: Mecca of the New Negro” in the March 1925 issue of Survey Graphic magazine. They were later enhanced and published in the anthology The New Negro: An Interpretation In it Locke and the other contributors heralded Harlem as the center for the development of modern Black identities also known as the New Negro and declared that the arts and culture were ...

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Lawrie Balfour

Beauford Delaney was born in Knoxville, Tennessee. According to his younger brother, painter Joseph Delaney, Delaney was preoccupied with art even as a young child. He received his first formal art training from Lloyd Branson, a white artist living in Knoxville. Branson encouraged him to move to Boston, Massachusetts in 1924. There he studied painting at the Massachusetts Normal School, the South Boston School of Art, and the Copley Society.

In 1929 Delaney moved to New York, where he held a variety of jobs while he established himself as a painter. Twelve of his portraits were displayed in a 1930 group show at the Whitney Studio Galleries later the Whitney Museum of American Art In exchange for working at the Whitney as a guard telephone operator and gallery attendant Delaney received studio space and a place to live He had his first one man ...

Article

Aaron Myers

Aaron Douglas was born in Topeka, Kansas. After graduating from the University of Nebraska, he taught art at Lincoln High School in Topeka from 1923 to 1925. He moved to Harlem, New York in 1925, the year cultural critic and philosopher Alain Leroy Locke launched the New Negro movement. This movement expressed African Americans' new pride in their African heritage, which manifested itself in literature, song, dance, and most significantly for Douglas, art.

Douglas soon made the acquaintance of German American portrait artist Winold Reiss, who illustrated the March 1925 issue of Survey Graphic an issue devoted to the New Negro movement and edited by Locke Both Reiss and Locke encouraged Douglas to develop his own aesthetic from design motifs in African art Douglas followed their suggestions and sought examples of African art which in the 1920s were beginning to be purchased by American museums ...

Article

Amy Helene Kirschke

artist and educator, was born in Topeka, Kansas, the son of Aaron Douglas Sr., a baker from Tennessee, and Elizabeth (maiden name unknown), an amateur artist from Alabama. Aaron had several brothers and sisters, but he was unique in his family in his singular drive to pursue higher education. He attended segregated elementary schools and then an integrated high school. Topeka had a strong and progressive black community, and Aaron was fortunate to grow up in a city where education and social uplift were stressed through organizations such as the Black Topeka Foundation. He was an avid reader and immersed himself in the great writers, including Dumas, Shakespeare, and Emerson His parents were able to feed and clothe him but could offer him no other help with higher education When he needed money to pursue a college degree he traveled via rail to Detroit where ...

Article

Jennifer Anne Hart

Ghanaian painter and sculptor, was born in Anyako in the Volta region of what was then the Gold Coast and is now Ghana. He was the son of a weaver, and is a member of the Ewe ethnic group.

Anatsui began professional art training at the University of Science and Technology in Kumasi, Ghana (1965–1969). During this four-year training period, which emphasized Western art techniques, Anatsui specialized in sculpture with particular focus on life and figure studies. During the early years of his career and training, however, Anatsui was influenced by the work of Oku Ampofo, Vincent Akwete Kofi, and Kofi Antubam, who began to reject the foreign influences in their artistic training and pay increasing attention to indigenous art forms. This artistic movement was encapsulated in the Ghanaian concept of sankofa. Responding to colonial efforts to denigrate African culture, sankofa encouraged the careful selection and inclusion of ...

Article

Gerald Early

baseball player and artist, was born Curtis Charles Flood in Houston, Texas, the youngest of six children of Herman and Laura Flood. In 1940 the family moved to Oakland, California. Flood's older brother, Carl, who had trouble with the law from childhood, slipped into a life of crime. Flood, however, began playing midget-league baseball at the age of nine. George Powles coached the team and produced, besides Curt Flood, such players as Frank Robinson, Vada Pinson, Joe Morgan, and Jesse Gonder. The other factor that kept Flood out of trouble was encountering Jim Chambers who encouraged his interest and development as an artist at Herbert Hoover High School in Oakland Flood played baseball throughout his teenage years and became a promising athlete However he was small weighing barely one hundred forty pounds and standing only five feet seven inches tall as a senior in ...

Article

Cheryl A. Alston

artist and activist, was born in Detroit, Michigan, the third of ten children of Betty Solomon Guyton and George Guyton, a construction worker. His mother reared the children on her own after George Guyton left the-family, when Tyree Guyton was nine years old. Guyton grew up on the east side of Detroit in an area called “Black Bottom,” one of the oldest African American communities in the city. He attended Northern High School, but he did not graduate and earned his GED at a later date.

Guyton began painting at the age of eight when his grandfather, Sam Mackey a housepainter at the time who later became a painter of fine art gave him the tool to create a paintbrush Because of his family s poverty Guyton felt all he had was his art He felt like he had no freedom and he realized early on that ...

Article

Christine G. McKay

cartoonist, was born Oliver Wendell Harrington in New York City, the son of Herbert Harrington, a porter, and Euzenie Turat. His father came to New York from North Carolina in the early 1900s when many African Americans were seeking greater opportunities in the North. His mother had immigrated to America, arriving from Austria-Hungary in 1907, to join her half sister. Ollie Harrington grew up in a multiethnic neighborhood in the South Bronx and attended public schools. He recalled a home life burdened by the stresses of his parents' interracial marriage and the financial struggles of raising five children. From an early age, he drew cartoons to ease those tensions.

In 1927 Harrington enrolled at Textile High School in Manhattan He was voted best artist in his class and started a club whose members studied popular newspaper cartoonists Exposure to the work of Art Young Denys ...

Article

Pamela Lee Gray

musician, activist, author, painter, and sculptor, was born Richard Pierce Havens in Brooklyn, New York, the oldest of nine children. He grew up in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. His father, Richard Havens, worked as a metal plater and dreamed of becoming a professional pianist, eventually learning to play a number of instruments. Richie's mother Mildred a bookbinder and casual singer at home encouraged her young son when he started singing background vocals at the age of twelve for local groups All kinds of music were played in the Havens home Richie s grandmother listened to Yiddish gospel and big band music his mother enjoyed country music and his father loved jazz He joined the doo wop singing group the Five Chances at age fifteen and performed the next year with the Brooklyn McCrea Gospel Singers a group that sang hymns for neighborhood churches Havens ...

Article

Thomas N. Whitehead

folk artist, was born Clemence Reuben at Hidden Hill Plantation near Cloutierville, Louisiana, the daughter of John Reuben and Antoinette Adams, plantation workers. Her exact birth date is unknown. Most sources agree that she was born in either late December 1886 or early January 1887.

Leaving Catholic school in Cloutierville at a young age because she disliked the discipline of the nuns, Reuben, now called Clementine, became a cotton picker and field hand at several plantations in the Cloutierville area. In her adolescence her father moved the family to Melrose Plantation, about fifteen miles south of Natchitoches, Louisiana, in the central part of the state.

Melrose Plantation had been established in 1796 by Marie-Therese Coincoin a freed female slave who became one of the most successful plantation and slave owners in the United States After the Civil War ownership of the plantation was transferred to white ...

Article

Anne Hudson Jones

“If Jimmy Carter wants to see me, he knows where I am. He can come here.” This reply to President Carter’s invitation that she come to Washington for the opening of an exhibition of her work is vintage Clementine Hunter. Her disregard for fame and the famous was part of her special charm and did not change, even after she became known worldwide for her colorful folk paintings of black life in the Cane River region of northern Louisiana.

Hunter was born on Hidden Hill Plantation, near Cloutierville, Louisiana. Her mother, Mary Antoinette Adams, was the daughter of a slave who was brought to Louisiana from Virginia. Her father, John Reuben had an Irish father and a Native American mother Hunter considered herself a Creole When she was a teenager she moved with her family from Hidden Hill to Yucca Plantation which was renamed Melrose seventeen miles ...

Article

Betty Kaplan Gubert

Born in Florence, South Carolina, William Johnson began drawing when he was a child, encouraged by sympathetic art teachers. Determined to go to New York City to become an artist, he accompanied his uncle there in 1918 when they both took jobs as stevedores. He was able to send money home as well as save for his education. In 1921 he began five years of rigorous classical training at the National Academy of Design.

Winning numerous prizes at the academy, Johnson came to the attention of Charles W. Hawthorne, an influential instructor, who invited him to his Cape Cod School of Art on work-study programs during the summers of 1924–1926. Hawthorne also raised $1000 so that Johnson could spend a year studying in Paris. Hawthorne introduced his protégé to George Luks a member of The Eight a group of realist painters who were later known ...

Article

Aaron Myers

Lois Mailou Jones was born in Boston, Massachusetts. At the age of four, she began to copy paintings in the homes of wealthy white people for whom her mother, a beautician and hat maker, worked. Her formal education began in her high school years, when she attended vocational drawing classes in the evenings and on weekends at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. She then studied textile design at the Boston Designers Art School before beginning a four-year program in School of the Museum of Fine Arts, from which she was graduated in 1927 with honors in design.

Because she was black, Jones was denied a graduate assistantship and explored what appeared to be her only other option, teaching art at a black school. In 1928 she established an art department at Palmer Memorial Institute in Sedalia North Carolina At that time art departments at southern black schools ...

Article

Lisa E. Rivo

artist and teacher, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the second of two children of Carolyn Dorinda Adams, a beautician, and Thomas Vreeland Jones, a building superintendent. Jones's father became a lawyer at age forty, and she credited him with inspiring her by example: “Much of my drive surely comes from my father—wanting to be someone, to have an ambition” (Benjamin, 4). While majoring in art at the High School of Practical Arts, Jones spent afternoons in a drawing program at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts. On weekends she apprenticed with Grace Ripley, a prominent designer of theatrical masks and costumes. From 1923 to 1927 she studied design at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts and became one of the school s first African American graduates Upon graduation Jones who had earned a teaching certificate from the Boston Normal Art School received a one ...

Article

Tritobia Hayes Benjamin

An active and acclaimed painter for more than six decades, Lois Mailou Jones enjoyed two impressive careers, one as a professor of art and the other as an artist. Her teaching gave her financial security and served as an inspiration and a challenge.

Lois Jones was born in Boston to Caroline Dorinda Adams and Thomas Vreeland Jones. Her father was superintendent of a large office building and attended night classes at Suffolk Law School, where he received his law degree in 1915 at the age of forty. “I think that much of my drive surely comes from my father,” Jones once said, “wanting to be someone, having an ambition.” Her mother was a beautician and Jones’s first mentor. She filled the Jones home with color and freshly cut flowers, instilling in her daughter a love of beauty.

With the assistance of four annual tuition scholarships Jones earned a diploma ...

Article

Throughout his career, Wilfredo Lam was active in major art movements, including surrealism and modernism, and was associated with many of the best-known figures in the art world of his day, including Pablo Picasso and André Breton. Lam's surrealist compositions make use of his Afro-Chinese and Cuban ancestry, and his most famous paintings, including The Eternal Presence (1945) and The Jungle (1943), present his mythic, erotic, and syncretic inheritances in a supernatural and symbolic way. Lam's style is easily recognizable for its mysterious, spiritual dimension, which proceeds from his debt to African religious traditions in the Caribbean, as exemplified by Altar for Eleggua (1944 His style is also known for the abstract eroticized and fetishistic representations of body parts and African masks that melt into and surge out of jungle like landscapes of camouflage in the tropics He was a distinguished talent of ...

Article

Ann Wilde

one of the great modern painters of the twentieth century. Jacob Lawrence experienced early success as an artist, and for more than sixty years he sustained an aesthetic vision of the past, providing a visual commentary on the social position of African Americans and the power of the community in mobilizing political change. Lawrence blended the figurative with a unique element of the abstract to create images that are familiar, yet also distinctly modern.

The first son of Jacob Lawrence, a railroad cook from South Carolina, and Rosa Lee Armstead Lawrence, a domestic servant, Jacob Armstead Lawrence was born on 7 September 1917 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. In 1919 the Lawrence family moved to Easton, Pennsylvania, where Lawrence senior looked for work as a coal miner. When Lawrence was seven, his father left the family and settled in Harlem; his mother moved with her three children—Jacob ...

Article

Jacob Armstead Lawrence painted figurative and narrative pictures of the black community and black history for more than sixty years in a consistent modernist style, using expressive, strong design and flat areas of color. His parents, Jacob Armstead Lawrence of South Carolina and Rose Lee of Virginia, were part of the Great Migration, the movement of African Americans from the South to the promise of jobs in Northern industry during the two decades following the onset of World War I.

Lawrence was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey. When he was two years old, his family moved to Easton, Pennsylvania, and, a few years later, to Philadelphia, where his father became a part-time dining-car cook on the railroads. After his parents separated in 1924, Lawrence, his mother, and his younger brother and sister moved to Harlem where they joined relatives who had also relocated in ...

Article

Lisa Gail Collins

artist and teacher, was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, to migrant parents. His father, Jacob Lawrence, a railroad cook, was from South Carolina, and his mother, Rose Lee Armstead, hailed from Virginia. In 1919 the family moved to Pennsylvania, where Jacob's sister, Geraldine, was born. Five years later Jacob's brother, William, was born, and his parents separated.Jacob moved with his mother, sister, and brother to a Manhattan apartment on West 143d Street in 1930. Upon his arrival in Harlem, the teenage Lawrence began taking neighborhood art classes. His favorite teacher was the painter Charles Alston who taught at the Harlem Art Workshop This workshop sponsored by the Works Progress Administration was first housed in the central Harlem branch of the New York Public Library before relocating to Alston s studio at 306 West 141st Street Many community cultural workers had studios ...