“[I] worked with what's around me,” Cortor said, “though sometimes I reach back for something out of my memory.” In this monumental still life, an abundance of worn objects transmits layers of memories, not only of the artist’s personal history, but also the shared experiences of black America throughout the early 20th century. The items depicted refer both to triumphs and to failures, from the successful business empire of Madame C.J. Walker to the racial injustice of the 1932 Scottsboro trial.


  • Title: Still-Life: Past Revisited
  • Creator: Eldzier Cortor
  • Date Created: 1973
  • Physical Dimensions: 60 x 66 in.
  • Provenance: Until 1995, collection of the artist; by October 1995, with Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York; October 1995, 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

Get the app

Explore museums and play with Art Transfer, Pocket Galleries, Art Selfie, and more

Flash this QR Code to get the app
Google apps