Term used to describe art made by Americans of African descent. While the crafts of African Americans in the 18th and 19th centuries continued largely to reflect African artistic traditions (see Africa, §VIII), the earliest fine art made by professional African American artists was in an academic Western style (see fig.).
Regenia A. Perry, Camara Dia Holloway, Christina Knight, Dele Jegede, Bridget R. Cooks, and Jenifer P. Borum
William Ellisworth Artis was born February 2, 1914, in Washington, North Carolina, to Elizabeth Davis and Thomas Migget. In 1926 he went to live with his mother and her husband, George Artis, in New York City. Artis's artistic education took him through a number of institutions, including the Art Student's League, Pennsylvania State University, Chadron State College in Nebraska, and Syracuse University. He also studied under Harlem Renaissance sculptor Augusta Savage. Artis won the Metropolitan Scholarship award for creative sculpture in 1933, and the Outstanding Educator of America and Outstanding Afro-American Artist awards in 1970. His sculptures are singular in their treatment of human life and their vitality of form. Later in his career Artis taught at Nebraska State Teacher's College and the Harlem Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA).
Amalia K. Amaki
sculptor, ceramicist, and educator, was one of America's most prolific and respected three‐dimensional artists in the mid‐twentieth century. Born in Washington, North Carolina, to Elizabeth Davis and Thomas Miggett, he lived primarily with his father until the fall of 1926 when he relocated to Harlem and began living with his mother and her husband, George Artis. In New York he assumed the surname of his stepfather. He attended Haaren High School and went on to study sculpture and pottery at the Augusta Savage Studio of Arts and Crafts in the early 1930s, joining the ranks of Jacob Armstead Lawrence, Gwendolyn Knight, Romare Bearden, Norman Lewis, and other notable artists whose initial studies included instruction under Savage. Artis was also a contemporary of his fellow sculptors Selma Hortense Burke and Richmond Barthé the latter the most exhibited and honored three dimensional artist associated with ...
Nicholas J. Bridger
Yoruba wood sculptor, was born in 1910 in Osi-Ilorin, now in Kwara State, Nigeria. He was the son of Areogun of Osi-Ilorin (c. 1880–1954), a significant master woodcarver of the premodern tradition of the northeast area of Yorubaland. He acquired the name George when baptized Catholic as a child, although his father remained a practitioner of the local Yoruba religion. His name is referred to in recent sources as George Bamidele Arowoogun, the patronymic added as a surname. His close collaborator and patron for four decades, Father Kevin Carroll (1920–1993), always referred to him simply as “Bandele.”
Growing up in a successful carver s household Bandele became apprenticed in his teens to one of his father s former assistants Oshamuko also from Osi Ilorin one of a group of villages called collectively Opin which was within the Ekiti region Both his familial ancestry and his artistic lineage ...
Richmond Barthé grew up in Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi, and New Orleans, Louisiana. His father died at the age of twenty-two, one month after Barthé's birth. In early childhood, Barthé began drawing and painting watercolor scenes. His mother, Marie Clementine Roboteau, raised him alone, fostering his interest in the arts. He received further encouragement from his fellow townspeople and the nuns at his parochial school.
In 1915 Barthé moved to New Orleans, where he painted and worked as a butler. At the age of eighteen he won a local drawing contest. During the nine years that Barthé spent in New Orleans, he tried to enter art school, but his admission was denied because he was black. Critic Lyle Saxon of the Times-Picayune newspaper attempted to wield his influence to allow Barthé into a New Orleans art school, but his efforts failed.
Barthé eventually focused his interest on schools ...
sculptor, was born in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, the son of Richmond Barthé and Marie Clementine Roboteau, a seamstress. His father died when Barthé was one month old. Barthé began drawing as a child and first exhibited his work at the county fair in Mississippi at age twelve. He did not attend high school, but he learned about his African heritage from books borrowed from a local grocer and publications given to him by a wealthy white family that vacationed in Bay St. Louis. This family, which had connections to Africa through ambassadorships, hired Barthé as a butler when he was in his teens; he moved with them to New Orleans. At age eighteen Barthé won first prize for a drawing he sent to the Mississippi County Fair. Lyle Saxon, the literary critic for the New Orleans Times Picayune then attempted to register Barthé in a ...
artist. Barthé's stylistic sculptures of the African American captured the human passion and genuine character, culture, and ethnic identity of the race. His sensitivity in his work revealed a glimpse into the life and spirit of the African American during an era of oppression and persecution. Barthé's unique ability to expose the vulnerability of his subjects brought him wide recognition in the art world and the social circles of the early and mid-twentieth century.
Born in Bay Saint Louis, Mississippi, Barthé grew up on the coastal bay, an area populated by wealthy New Orleans families. His father, Richmond Barthé Sr., died at the age of twenty-two, when Barthé was only a few months old. Barthé's mother, Marie Clementine Robateau Barthé, left a single mother, raised him while working as a seamstress. When Barthé was six she married his godfather, William Franklin a workingman and a cornet ...
ceramist, sculptor, filmmaker, and cofounder (with her husband, James Hatch) of the Hatch‐Billops Collection, an archive of African American cultural history, was born in Los Angeles, California, to Lucius Billops, a cook and merchant seaman, and Alma Gilmore, a dressmaker, maid, and aircraft assembly worker. Billops graduated from Catholic Girls High School in 1952, and in 1954 she began her studies at the University of Southern California. She majored in occupational therapy, which included drawing, sculpture, and ceramics. She transferred to Los Angeles State College in 1956 after she became pregnant, and then she changed her major to special education. Billops worked during the day as a bank bookkeeper and maintained a full academic workload in the evening. At the end of 1956 her daughter, Christa, was born, and Billops put her up for adoption. This was an experience she would explore in her 1992 ...
Born in rural Jamaica, Everald Brown moved to West Kingston in 1947 and became deeply interested in the religion of the Rastafarians. Having established a small unofficial church in 1960, he began making artworks for use in church ritual. These works are noted for their intuitive style and use of imagery from Rastafarian, Ethiopian Orthodox, Judaic, and Christian revivalist religious traditions. Brown claims that these images come to him through dreams and visions. Among his most acclaimed paintings is Ethiopian Apple (1970), which is in the collection of the National Gallery of Jamaica.
An accomplished sculptor as well as an intuitive painter, Brown has also gained fame for his carved musical instruments. From the early 1970s he lived in rural Jamaica, where he devoted himself to art that promoted spiritual and environmental concerns.
See also Art in Latin America and the Caribbean.
SaFiya D. Hoskins
artist, was born in Fuquay, North Carolina, and adopted as Beverly Buchanan by Marion and Walter Buchanan. Her father worked as the dean of the School of Agriculture at South Carolina State College, the only state school for African Americans in that state. Buchanan was raised in Orangeburg, where South Carolina State is located, and often traveled the state with her father as he met with farmers. At an early age she was captivated by the landscape of the rural South and the simple architecture of the dwellings there. Buchanan enjoyed drawing the people she encountered on these outings with her father. Despite her early inclination toward art, in 1958, upon graduating from high school, she enrolled at Bennett College, a historically black women's college in Greensboro, North Carolina. In 1962 Buchanan earned a bachelor of science degree in Medical Technology from Bennett and moved to ...
A. M. Weaver
painter and mixed-media artist, was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, to James and Janey Bullock, of whom little else is known. She was the youngest of three children. An inquisitive child who was always making things, Bullock's creativity blossomed under the watchful eye of her mother and, later, her stepmother. When Bullock was twelve years old, her mother died, marking the beginning of a spiritual quest that eventually led her to becoming an artist.
Bullock's formal art education began in 1958 at the Samuel Fleisher Art Memorial, a Philadelphia institution that provided free instruction to adults and children. The 109-year-old school had a reputation for fostering the growth and development of artists, and Bullock stayed there for a year. Later she attended the Hussian School of Art in Philadelphia, from 1965 to 1966 Bullock arrived there at a time when the school still followed the traditional academic approach to ...
American sculptor, teacher, and writer. Burke initially trained as a nurse at the Women’s Medical College, NC, before studying philosophy at Columbia University, New York (1936–41). During the 1930s she became one of a few prominent black American sculptors (see African American art §I 2.) participating in the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Projects. She also became an instructor in sculpture at the Harlem Community Art Center and a frequent contributor to periodicals and newspapers, and she worked with Aristide Maillol in Paris and Hans Reiss (1885–1968) in New York. In 1940 she was awarded a Rosenwald Fellowship and in the period 1943–6 was director of the Student’s School of Sculpture, New York. Her sculpture is characterized by an idealistic intent in sensitively moulded stone carvings on humanistic themes, for example Lafayette and Salome exhibited at the McMillen Galleries New York ...
sculptor, art educator, and mentor, was born in Mooreseville, North Carolina, one of eight children of Mary L. Elizabeth Jackson Cofield Burke a homemaker and a teacher and Neal Burke a Methodist minister Burke s artistic experiences began in childhood when she played in the pliable soil around her North Carolina home I shaped my destiny early with the clay of North Carolina rivers I loved to make the whitewash for my mother and was excited at the imprints of the clay and the malleability of the material Krantz and Koslow She was further inspired by the art objects that her father and uncles brought back with them from their travels in Africa the Caribbean and Europe As a chef aboard ships her father had the chance to both preach and explore in other countries bringing back artwork Her uncles were missionaries who traveled extensively returning with mementos that ...
Tritobia Hayes Benjamin
One of the chores assigned to the Burke children every Saturday was to whitewash the fireplaces with a wash made of local clay. Selma Hortense Burke discovered right away that this clay could be molded into delightful shapes. Her varied career as a teacher, arts administrator, model, and nurse was one of distinction and achievement, but it is her work as a sculptor that is the most memorable. Working with a variety of woods, marbles, and stones, Burke infused her figures with expressiveness, heroism, and power. She focused on the human figure, from the earliest clay figurines she created as a young artist to a statue she completed in the late 1970s of Martin Luther King Jr.
While a student at Howard University in Washington, D.C., in the 1930s, Elizabeth Catlett first encountered African sculptural art and the contemporary work of Mexican muralists. These two art traditions inform most of Catlett's oeuvre. Her sculpted figures have the same voluminous, rounded forms of the people portrayed in the murals of Mexican artists such as Diego Rivera. At the same time, the faces of Catlett's sculpted figures have an owl-like, lunar quality that seems to be derived from African mask design. This stylized facial quality can also be observed in some of Catlett's graphic work, especially in her lithographs. In her linocuts, on the other hand, the faces and bodies of figures are rendered in a more realistic manner; these linocuts are stylistically related to the work of printmakers at the Taller de Gráfica Popular in Mexico City, where Catlett studied from 1946 to 1947 She combined ...
Lisa E. Rivo
sculptor, printmaker, and teacher, was born Alice Elizabeth Catlett to Mary Carson, a truant officer, and John Catlett, a math teacher and amateur musician who died shortly before Elizabeth's birth. Elizabeth and her two older siblings were raised by their mother and paternal grandmother in a middle-class neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Encouraged by her mother and her teachers at Dunbar High School to pursue a career as an artist, she entered Howard University in 1931, where she studied with the African American artists James Lesesne Wells, Loïs Mailou Jones, and James A. Porter. After graduating cum laude with a BS in Art in 1935, Catlett taught art in the Durham, North Carolina, public schools before beginning graduate training at the University of Iowa in 1938 Under the tutelage of the artist Grant Wood Catlett switched her concentration from painting to sculpture and ...
Amy Helene Kirschke
sculptor and printmaker. Catlett was born six months after her father died of tuberculosis. The Washington, D.C., native was the daughter of two educators. Her father was a teacher at Tuskegee Institute and in the Washington, D.C., public schools, and her mother was trained at the Scotia Seminary in North Carolina as a teacher. Upon Elizabeth's father's death, her mother immediately sought a job, eventually working as a truant officer in the Washington, D.C., public school system. Catlett's mother always strongly emphasized education for her three children. The granddaughter of freed slaves, Catlett credited her resolve in sculpture to her family's commitment to education, noting that her profession has traditionally been reserved for white men.
Catlett identified with four underserved groups women blacks Mexicans and poor people She did not see herself as exceptional rather she saw herself as exceptionally fortunate A precocious student she skipped two grades and ...
sculptor, poet, novelist, and painter, was born Barbara Chase in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the only daughter of Charles Edward Chase, a contractor, and Vivian May West, a medical technician. Chase grew up in a nurturing middle-class environment and took dance lessons at the age of five, piano lessons at six, and art lessons at seven. In 1946 she enrolled at the Fletcher Memorial Art School in Philadelphia, where she received her first art prize for creating a small Greek vase. She flourished intellectually and was admitted to the Philadelphia Museum School of Art, where she studied dance with Marion Cuyjet, a master ballet teacher. She also attended Philadelphia's Academy of Music. At eleven years old, she began writing poetry and enrolled at the Philadelphia High School for Girls. In 1954 she won the National Scholastic Art Contest For the first time she exhibited her prints at the ACA ...
Candace L. LeClaire
artist, was born to Mattie Bell, an unmarried, teenage sharecropper in Emelle, Alabama. Dial was the second of Bell's twelve children and was named simply “Buck” at birth. He did not have a formal surname and grew up uncertain of the identity of his biological father. Mattie Bell married a man named Dan Pratt shortly after the birth of her third son, and the couple went on to have nine more children. His mother's new and growing family proved to be a difficult adjustment for Buck, and he was sent to live with his great-grandmother, Had Dial, on the nearby farm of Bell's older cousin, Buddy Jake Dial. The Dials, who were of African and Native American descent, raised and cared for Thornton; they put him to work on the farm, and gave him the last name of Dial.
Dial s artistic sensibilities in part developed ...
crystal am nelson
folk artist, was born Samuel Doyle on St. Helena Island, the Gullah Islands, South Carolina, one of nine children of Thomas Sr. and Sue Ladsen Doyle farmers on the Wallace plantation of mostly freed slaves Doyle attended the Penn School which was one of the country s first vocational and agricultural schools created by the Freedmen s Associations of Philadelphia to educate freed slaves on St Helena s Island He studied literature and carpentry through the ninth grade but was recognized for his drawing skills A teacher encouraged him to travel to New York where he could better nurture his talent with the growing opportunities available to African American artists however owing to financial constraints Doyle chose to remain on the island He dropped out of the Penn School following the ninth grade and found a job as a store clerk He later took on work as a ...