Posts Tagged ‘harlem renaissance’

Artist of the moment……..Aaron Douglas


Aaron Douglas was an African- American artist associated with the Harlem Renaissance who painted in a Modernist style. Aaron Douglas was born in Topeka, Kansas in the year 1899.

Douglas attended the University of Nebraska at Lincoln earning a B.F.A. A year later he added a bachelor of arts degree from the University of Kansas.

A few years after earning his second degree the artist relocated to Harlem, New York.

Douglas was one of the most sought after illustrators of the leading African- American magazines. He even tried to start his own magazine that was to showcase the up and coming younger artists.

He spent part of 1931 in Paris, France studying art as a grant award recipient.

In this clip we find Aaron Douglas at the Nebraska Museum of Art:

Douglas started the art department at Fisk University located in Nashville, Tennessee.

In this clip we get a peak at Aaron Douglas at the easel. Some jazz music is played and I must pass on the sad news that American Jazz legend B.B. King passed away at the age of 89:

Aaron Douglas passed away in 1979 at the age of  79.

Price range information: Works range from $20,000 to $500,000. Douglas worked in oils, watercolors, and gouache.

Douglas was of the first African American artists to earn a degree, and surely one of the first to earn two degrees. Yet, I feel as he is under appreciated for his contributions to the art world.




Artist of the moment……..Norman Lewis


Norman Lewis was an African American painter and printmaker who worked with the figure but is more renown for his abstract paintings. Norman Lewis was born in Harlem, New York in the year 1909.

After painting many scenes of figures and the Harlem Renaissance Lewis started to paint in the style of an Abstract Expressionist painter in the 1940s.

The artist participated in the Works Progress Administration.

Price range information: Works range from $5,000 for a print to $600,000 for an original oil. The artist worked in watercolor, gouache, pastel, and oils.

Lewis was part of the Spiral group. A group of African American writers and artists.

Lewis was a teacher for most of his career. He won fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and also the National Endowment for the Arts.

In this clip we view some works by Norman Lewis following a brief biography. This clip deals with Lewis’s abstract art:


Norman Lewis passed away in 1979.

I enjoy his abstract works that use color. What an outstanding use of color and loose edges.


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.


Artist of the moment….Augusta Savage…


The artist was one of few women of color who pursued knowledge of the arts.  Very similar to Elizabeth Catlett and Samella Sanders Lewis who both blazed new paths for future artists by studying the arts in college.

Augusta Savage was born on Leap Day, which is February 29th in a year with 366 days included, in the year 1862.  The artist was born Augusta Christine Fells and was the seventh child of fourteen.

The artist was a large figure in the Harlem Renaissance movement. She worked tirelessly for equal rights for people of color that worked in the art industry.

A great clip showing a live movie with Augusta Savage working on a sculpture.  The piece is accompanied by some piano jazz. I enjoy seeing the artist’s at work doing their own unique processes which they have honed over the years. She first sculpts an animal piece than a young African- American boy.

A great clip showing the artist at work. In addition to Savage you can other leaders of the Harlem Renaissance such as Richmond Barthe, Aaron Douglas, and Palmer Hayden. The part with Augusta Savage begins 11:40 into the clip.

The artist’s father was a minister and didn’t want his daughter to be involved in the arts. As a child she used clay to sculpt animals. When her father found the artworks he scolded and beat her. Years later when she was in high school she sculpted the Virgin Mary. Immediately her father saw the beauty in her work and he was ashamed for having thought sculpting was a sinful practice.

The artist was married twice but both marriages ended after a few years time.

The artist gets married but her husband dies a few years later. The artist gives sculpting all her attention. She moves to New York and meets the Founder of the American School of Sculpting,  Mr. Solon Borglum.  He enjoys her work and gets the artist an interview with Cooper College. The artist is accepted straight away!

She went to college for two years finishing in 1923. By the late twenties she was teaching art in her own studio in Harlem.  She won an award to study in Rome, but the award covered tuition and not travel. The artist was unable to attend.

Soon after she won another award to study in France and this time she received help from her friends and family. She visited the ancient buildings that can be found in France, Belgium, and Germany.

Augusta Savage won a prestigious award for her sculpture titled ” Gamin,” featuring a young African- American boy. Gamin is on display at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C.

The artist was a chief proponent of teaching art in Harlem. Her free art classes were so successful she decided to run her own school. She got grants from the Works Project Administration and started the school in 1937. Eleanor Roosevelt showed up for the opening day. The artist had become more of a teacher due to lack of an economy due to the Great Depression. She had returend from Europe in 1931.

She did a few public commissions and opened two galleries that couldn’t handle the tough economy. The artist ended up living on a farm in New York state the remainder of her life.

She worked in materials she could afford. Rarely did the artist use bronze, instead she used clay or plastic.

Augusta Savage passed away in 1962.

I enjoy this artist because of the constant struggles she had just to get by, yet she was able to still be a productive artist.  I think if she was an artist in the present she might garner as much acclaim as Kara Walker. Savage was adept at capturing the character of the human face in clay.

I have never tried a clay piece, but am eager to do so now!

A book out about the artist is out titled IN HER HANDS. The cost is $10 with shipping for a used version on

high price range:  Plaster version of Gamin for $40,800.

low price range: $10,000