Hope for the Hopeless – Katherine Muncey

This gallery depicts African-Americans on paintings from the 20th Century. The artists emphasize the trouble that these people faced, but also the hope that they had for the brighter future. Using color and contrast, these paintings provide a sense of community African-Americans had, even amongst the segregation of their time.

Traveling (Lead Kindly Light), William Edouard Scott, 1918, From the collection of: Huntington Museum of Art
In Scott’s painting, Traveling, an elderly African-American couple are traveling on an ox. They are huddled together with a look of sadness on their faces. The couple has a lantern guiding their way. Scott uses a spectrum of browns to unify the couple and ox, and to separate them from their surroundings. The rapid brushstrokes show movement in the fire of the lantern. The lantern hanging on the ox radiates light forward to their future.
This painting by Aaron Douglas shows the silhouettes of African-American men and women. The painting is separated into three parts and brought together again by the circles in the middle. On the right, men are working in the fields, digging up crops. The middle of the painting shows men and women dancing, playing instruments, and overall having a good time. On the left, men are hunched over and wailing in agony. A star in the top left corner emits light that cuts through the painting from left to center. The artist Douglas uses shades of colors to differentiate the three parts of the painting, and to differentiate the layers of people from front to back. The silhouettes are lighter colors like pinks and browns compared to the blacks of the outer parts of the painting. The circles focus on the center of the painting along with the light of the star. This brings the viewers eye back to the middle of the painting where everyone is happy.
Hirsch named this painting Lynch Family after a family who lost a father to lynch mobs. The painting shows a woman sitting on a chair and holding a baby. The woman’s face is turned in profile and covered by her hand. The baby is wrapped in a dirty white blanket and has his back towards the viewer. The artist uses a lot of blue to set the mood of this painting. The mother’s dress almost blends into the background wall. However in contrast, the baby is in a lighter, bright blue. The baby is wrapped in the white blanket, but it isn’t a pure, innocent white.
Can Fire in the Park, Beauford Delaney, 1946, From the collection of: Smithsonian American Art Museum
Can Fire in the Park by Delaney depicts six men in a park huddled around a fire in a trashcan. The moon can be seen in the upper left hand corner, and a sign is shown on the right hand side. This painting is a rainbow of colors, usually with complimentary colors next to each other, as seen with the reds always next to a green. The artist Delaney uses colors to show a connection not only between the men, but also between men and nature. The foreground uses the same color scheme as the background, making everything blend into one another.
Sunlight and Shadow, Allan Rohan Crite, 1941, From the collection of: Smithsonian American Art Museum
This painting shows a group of African-American people sitting around in the park. There are kids playing around the stroller and older women sitting on either side of the bench huddled in small groups. Crite uses pale browns and reds to separate the people from the background. He shows a sense of unity between all of these people by the colors he chose. Every person has yellow, white, red, or blue somewhere on his or her clothing.
Cocktails, Archibald Motley, 1926, From the collection of: Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
In Motley’s Cocktails, there is a get-together going on with some female friends. A butler is bringing over food and drinks for the table. The women at the table are laughing and there is another woman lying on the chair near by. The artist uses whites and pastel colors to unify the ladies sitting at the table. Her being surrounded by dark colors separates the woman on the chair. However she is still connected to the other women shown by the pastel colored shirt on the back of the chair. The butler is separated by his being dressed in black.
"Murder in Mississippi (Southern Justice)", Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), 1965, From the collection of: Norman Rockwell Museum
Murder in Mississippi by Rockwell depicts the murder of three men by the KKK. In the painting, one man is laying face down in the dirt. A black man is on his knees with a wound on his shoulder. There is blood on his shirt and his hand. The black man is clinging on to another man standing up and facing the shadows to the right of the painting. Rockwell’s choice of color sets a somber mood for the painting. The only bright color on the canvas is the red of the bloodstain. It is also in the center of the canvas, which draws the viewer’s eye right away. The black shadows of the KKK members contrast with the white shirt of the man staring them down. The shadows also match the black at the top of the canvas, the emptiness and unknown of the night.
"New Kids in the Neighborhood (Negro in the Suburb)", Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), 1967, From the collection of: Norman Rockwell Museum
Rockwell’s painting depicts two black children, a boy and a girl, and their cat moving into a new home. Two white boys, a white girl, and their dog are staring at the new children. There is a bunch of furniture behind the black children, and the moving truck is parked mostly behind the white children. The artist shows the children as opposites by positioning them on either side of the center, and one set of kids has a cat, while the other set of kids has a dog. Although at first glance these kids are opposites, Rockwell uses color to show unity between the two sets of children. One of the white boys’ shirts is yellow. The black children have yellow furniture. The white boy with the baseball cap has the same color scheme of clothes as the young black boy. Both girls have pink bows in their hair.
Girl with Flowers, Ernest Crichlow, 1979, From the collection of: Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts+Culture
Girl with Flowers by Ernest Crichlow shows a girl in a cream dress looking up to the sky and holding a basket of flowers. There is a wall behind her with plants growing over it. The girl is standing in a field of flowers and smiling. There is a huge lighting contrast between the girl and her background. The top part of the painting is completely covered in shadows. The wall is a dark maroon and the flowers are deep purples and reds hiding in a dark green field of grass. The flowers in the basket however, are a mix of pinkish-reds, lilacs, yellows, and light greens. The girls dress stands out the most being the biggest white object in this picture. The viewer is also drawn to the girl’s white smile even amongst all of the darkness.
Street Princess, Ernest Crichlow, 1982, From the collection of: Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts+Culture
Street Princess by Ernest Crichlow depicts a young African-American girl sitting on a porch step. She is wearing a white dress with a pearl necklace and pearl bracelet. The girl has her arm round a post. Her pose and jewelry are reminiscent of the Renaissance paintings. This painting is made almost entirely of the complimentary colors light green and pink. Those colors really make the background pop out. The girl is painted with the same colors as the post and the background of the porch, implying that they are all connected.
Credits: All media
This user gallery has been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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