Archive for December 13, 2012

Artist of the moment…Archibald Motley….

Archibald Motley was a well known African- American painter who was born in New Orleans, Louisiana in the year 1891.

For his collegiate education Motley attended the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, Illinois.

The artist was a leading figure in the Harlem Renaissance movement. He is most famous for his paintings showing large groups of people involved in relaxing and enjoying themselves. Many times the figures are dancing.


Just looking at the way the figures are composed in his works the artist reminds me of the great African- American artist Ernie Barnes. Barnes played was a professional football player who went on to great success as a painter and was best known for his painting  SUGARSHACK  which was in the credits for the hit television show Good Times with Jimmie Walker and John Amos. This was the show that for the first time centered on an African American family living in the ghetto. Below is a the painting Sugarshack and you can see how much life and movement the artist put into his figurative work.


In the gallery below all works by Archibald Motley.

Price range information: The only pricing I could find was $18,000 for a 9 by 12 done in oils.

A montage of works by Archibald Motley.

Motley was important in that he tried to use his art to elevate and motivate people of color.  He saw art as a way to show people they could be very proud to be a person of color. He loved portraiture work.

At the Art Institute of Chicago Motley was respected but the faculty thought his portraiture work was too modern in its appeal. He did well enough in school that a friend of his father paid his tuition.

He became the first African American painter to have a solo exhibition in New York city  . He sold twenty two of twenty six paintings 1928.

Won a Best In Show prize at the Newark Musuem of Art in 1927.

The artist won a Guggenheim Fellowship prize and was able to study in France for one year in 1929.

The artist worked as a commercial artist during leaner times by painting showing curtains for major corporations.

Motley though a key figure in the Renaissance movement was born in the south in the Louisiana and lived most of this life in Chicago. Motley died in Chicago in 1981 at the age of 89.

Motley is impressive as an artist for his ability to portray the different types of racial characteristics people loved to talk about. Was a person a mulatto, half black and half white, where they 25% black or more?  When the artist did his figure work in the 20s and 30s he tried to explore people of many shades of color. He seemed to make the statement BLACK IS BEAUTIFUL, NO MATTER WHAT SHADE YOU ARE!

Motley had a relative that was a great writer named Willard Motley. He was first published in a newspaper at age thirteen. They were raised as brothers though Archibald in fact was the uncle.