The best of times 

This gallery highlights the artist of the Harlem Renaissance ( the 1920s - 1930s). Who established a new black culture identity. Many were from the great migration and experienced self-determination for the first time. Witness their passion for everyday life, it was indeed the best of times.

Palmer C. Hayden, a self-taught artist and among the first to focus on the African-American experience. Beale Street Blues depicts people literally dancing in the street, with formal elements of color and motion. Note, the many hues use to create skin tones, all are different, from black to brown. Hayden captured the expression of happiness and celebration in the moment. This picture represents changing times, things are improving and cause to celebrate.
Johnson often painted scenes from his adolescence in rural South Carolina. In this work, an African American Family rides an oxcart towards three crosses on the hill, marking their church location and the symbol of their spiritual hope. Lines and colors are the dominant formal elements. Note, nothing in the picture is drawing to scale or given proper perspective. This disjointedness speaks to the inequalities of post-Reconstruction Southern culture. In spite of that, however, salvation is just over the next hill; inequality it's just the terrain that must be traveling to reach it. I included this picture, to show course and effect of the great migration North, the largest migration of people in history. Driven from their homes due to lack of opportunity and segregation laws, many moved North to take advantage of the need for industrial workers and to build a new place for themselves. Forever changing the urban landscape of America.
Aaron Douglas, the father of black American art and principal artist of the Harlem Renaissance. Commissioned by the New York Public Library, this mural depicts the history of African-Americans, from their origins in Africa to life in America.Study for Aspects of Negro Life showcases Douglas signature style, devised from Cubism and African art, his silhouette/translucence forms, space and light express the harsh realities of African American life and hope for a better future. Douglas never missed an opportunity to incorporate distinct political and social messages into his work. I chose this particular piece for the virtue it represents the weakening of the people, recognizing their origin and future...
Genesis Creation Sermon VI: And God Created All by Jacob Lawrence was commissioned by the Limited Edition Club to create illustrations for the King James version of the book of Genesis. Rather than depicting seems from the Bible, Lawrence drew on memories of the preacher at Harlem's Abyssinian Baptist Church. The picture depicts a personal interpretation of the Sunday's sermon. Here you clearly see the African American heritage and black identity to his artistic expression, in vivid colors and repeated patents, add intensity and motion. The Pastor stands centered with outreach hand as the congregation erupts in rapture. Through four arched windows, we witness creation in the making. I included this picture to represent the oldest and strongest organization in the black community. We've come this far by Faith.
Moon Masque by Lois Mailou Jones represents some of her earliest work with an African theme. Jones work has a beautiful sense of color and structured patterns, drawn from Ethiopian textiles. At the center of the Moon, Masque is the papier-mâché from Zaire. This was a very dramatic painting for the time. It was included, to represent the discovery and reconnection to heritage and traditions.
Brothers by Marvin Gray Johnson is a Folk-style painting, the design of the work is realistic, entirely proportionate to reality. Depicting two brothers sharing a wooden bench. Note the brilliant use of color and texture. Brothers represent Johnson's only visit to the South and is recognized as some of his finest work. You are immediately drawn to the brothers, you experience a feeling of off-balance, due to the slanting landscape. The brothers are dressed identically in blue overalls and white shirts. But what is interesting, is there facial expressions, almost scornful. This picture is chosen to show contrast, between those who remained in the South, with no hope and opportunity. Compared to their Northern brothers, experiencing self-determination.
The Band by Edward Burra is a colorful water painting depicting a live performance at a nightclub. With vivid colors and lines, an atmosphere of movement is created. With exaggerated shapes and facial expressions, only add humor and emphasize the good time being had. Burra, an Englishman was attracted to Harlem being the home of jazz and escape from English society. Harlem quickly became the center of New York's nightlife, with stylish and flamboyant clubs like the Cotton Club, which featured the royalty of African American musicians, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie and Duke Ellington. I chose this picture, to highlight how Black entertainers who started in Harlem went on to capture the hearts of millions around the world.
This portrait of Langston Hughes, painted by Winold Reiss who devoted most of his life towards painting a broader cross-section of the ethnic diverse in America. A uniquely gifted artist, who came to fame with his portraits of the New Negros in Harlem. The subject matter is simple: a portrait of a young Hughes, in deep contemplation with his work. As for formal elements, color and texture are paramount. What I find most interesting, is the mural on the wall, note the urban setting of high-rises in the distance, accompanied by musical notes just floating, and steps represented by piano keys. What a brilliant representation of the times. No depiction of the Harlem Renaissance would be complete without Langston Hughes, one of the most important writers and thinkers of the time. Through his writings, he promoted and celebrated black life and culture, equality and condemned racism and injustice from the black perspective. It's worth noting, that Reiss was a German immigrant who found friendship and inclusion in Harlem.
The library Series: The Schomburg by Jacob Lawrence depicts a crowded reading room, the first of its kind in the nation dedicated entirely to African-American culture. Lawrence with his signature style, of dynamic cubism where stark figures, appear as flat patches of color. All are consumed and focused on the contents of their books. The figures standing looking forward represents the artist as a young man. As in all his work, the narrative is always on the human content. The inclusion of this picture is to demonstrate the desire in the African American community to learn and discover.
The Builders by Jacob Lawrence depicts men doing construction/ building. With bold and intense color, sharp lines,geometric, using the rhythm of repeating shapes. Cubist in firm and social in comment gives his art one of its more distinctive traits. Lawrence is America's most honored black painter.The builder highlights the many contributions of the African in America.
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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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