Motley was one of the first artists to portray the urban life of his fellow African Americans in Chicago. His aim was to "express the American Negro honestly and sincerely, neither to add nor detract," regardless of the activity. Here, a group of elegantly-dressed women enjoy a round of drinks -- during Prohibition, when the manufacture and sale of alcohol was illegal. Notice the painting of monks on the wall behind them, contrasting the women's conviviality and suggesting themes of restraint and morality.


  • Title: Cocktails
  • Creator: Archibald Motley
  • Date Created: 1926
  • Physical Dimensions: 32 x 40 in.
  • Provenance: Private collection, Chicago; by 1984, with Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York; February 1984, sold by Michael Rosenfeld Gallery to John Axelrod, Boston; 2011, sold by Axelrod to the MFA.
  • Subject Keywords: African American Artist
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: The John Axelrod Collection—Frank B. Bemis Fund, Charles H. Bayley Fund, and The Heritage Fund for a Diverse Collection. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. All Rights Reserved.
  • External Link: MFA Website Entry
  • Medium: Oil on canvas

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