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Article

Margaret Rose Vendryes

(b Bay St Louis, MS, Jan 28, 1909; d Pasadena, CA, March 6, 1989).

African American sculptor and painter. Barthé was raised a devout Roman Catholic Creole. He was also the only African American artist of his generation to consistently portray the black male nude. Although closeted throughout his life, sensual figures such as Stevedore (1937; Hampton, VA, U. Mus.) expose his homosexuality. Barthé’s elementary education ended in 1914. As an adolescent, he skillfully copied magazine illustrations, especially figures. Barthé worked for the wealthy New Orleans Pond family, who summered on the Bay, and in 1917, he moved to New Orleans to become their live-in servant. Barthé had access to the Pond library and art collection, and while in their employment, he began to paint in oil. In 1924, his head of Jesus prompted the Rev. Harry F. Kane to fund the first of four years at the Art Institute of Chicago School, where Barthé studied painting with Charles Schroeder and sculpture with Albin Polasek (...

Article

Italian, 19th century, male.

Born 1833, in Milan; died 1884, in Milan.

Sculptor. Busts.

Calvi was a pupil at the Accademia in Milan and later of Seleroni. He took part in a large number of exhibitions in Europe and America, notably at the Royal Academy, London, between ...

Article

Jenifer P. Borum

(b Emelle, AL, Sept 10, 1928; d McCalla, AL, Jan 25, 2016).

African American painter and sculptor. Dial was born into poverty and left school at age nine to work various jobs, including fieldwork. At age ten, his mother gave up Thornton and his half-brother Arthur to be raised by their great-grandmother. Upon her death they were taken in by their aunt for two years, and then given to their great-aunt, Sarah Dial Lockett, in Bessemer, AL.

Throughout most of his life, Dial worked as a farmer, a gardener, a bricklayer, and a construction worker. He worked for the Bessemer Water Works for 13 years and the Pullman Standard for nearly 30 years. Dial’s labor gave him a great many skills that he would later apply to making artwork. He was handy with found objects and materials, often making cemetery decorations, as well as for his yard—both of which should be considered in the context of vernacular signifying practices within the African diaspora. Unfortunately, he buried or destroyed much of his early mixed-media yard work, as it often carried messages of social protest and could have been a source of trouble for him and his family. The practice of destroying his work changed when he met his future patron, the Atlanta collector Bill Arnett, in ...

Article

American, 19th – 20th century, male.

Born 1882, in Nashville (Tennessee); died 7 February 1951, in Nashville.

Sculptor. Religious subjects, figures, animals.

William Edmondson was the son of former slaves who were emancipated following the Civil War, and grew up illiterate. He worked at various jobs, in particular, for the Nashville, Chattanooga, and St Louis Railroads until ...

Article

Bridget Cooks

(b Nashville, TN, c. 1874; d Nashville, TN, 1951).

African American sculptor. Edmondson is known for his blocky, abstracted images of animals and angels. Edmondson was born around 1874 in Davidson County near Nashville, TN, where he lived and worked his entire life. While working for the St Louis Railroad in 1907, Edmondson became disabled and took a job as a janitor at Woman’s Hospital. In 1933, he was inspired by God to carve limestone tombstones. He displayed many of his works in his yard where they were seen by Nashville-based poet and Vanderbilt University professor Sidney Hirsch in 1936. This encounter sparked Edmondson’s eventual “discovery” by the New York art world. In 1936 and 1937, fashion photographer Louise Dahl-Wolfe took photographs of Edmondson and his sculptures and presented them to Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) director Alfred H(amilton) Barr. Edmondson became the first African American artist to have a solo exhibition at MOMA, titled Exhibition of Sculpture by William Edmondson...

Article

Revised and updated by Margaret Barlow

(b Philadelphia, PA, Jan 9, 1877; d Framingham, MA, 1968).

African American sculptor. Her long career anticipated and included the period of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and early 1930s (see African American art §I 2.). Born Meta Vaux Warrick, she studied at the Pennsylvania Museum and School for Industrial Art, Philadelphia, from 1893 to 1899. This was followed by a period in Paris (1899–1902) at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, and the Académie Colarossi, during which time one of her figures caught the eye of Auguste Rodin. She exhibited regularly at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts. Her early work, with themes of death and sorrow, was characterized by a powerful expressionism. At the Tercentennial Exposition (1907) she was awarded a gold medal for the Jamestown Tableau, a 15-piece sculpture that recorded the settlement of the black community of Jamestown in 1607. In 1909 she married Solomon Carter Fuller and settled in Framingham, MA. After the loss of her early work in a fire in ...

Article

American, 19th – 20th century, female.

Born 9 June 1877, in Philadelphia; died 13 March 1968.

Sculptor (plaster/bronze), illustrator.

Harlem Renaissance.

Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller studied at the Pennsylvania Museum School for Industrial Arts (today Philadelphia College of Art) from 1894 to 1899 and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts ...

Article

[Wildfire]

(b New York, 1845; d after 1911).

American sculptor. Born to an African American father and a Native American mother, she was the first black American sculptor to achieve national prominence. During her early childhood she travelled with her family in the Chippewa tribe, by whom she was known as Wildfire. At 12 she attended school at Albany, NY (1857–9), then a liberal arts course at Oberlin College, OH (1860–63). Lewis then went to Boston (1863) to study with Edward Brackett (1818–1908) and Anne Whitney. Her medallion of the abolitionist John Browne and a bust of the Civil War hero Col. Robert Shaw were exhibited at the Soldiers’ Relief Fair (1864), Boston; the latter sold over 100 plaster copies, enabling Lewis to travel to Rome (1865). There she was introduced to the White Marmorean Flock, a group of women sculptors, including Harriet Hosmer and Emma Stebbins...

Article

American, 19th century, female.

Active in Italy.

Born 4 July 1844, in New York State; died 1907, in Hammersmith, London.

Sculptor (marble), draughtsman. Portraits, medallions, busts, statues.

Mary Edmonia Lewis (Wildfire), a sculptor of African American and Native American ancestry, who once held studio space in Antonio Canova’s old rooms in Rome, created successful works and received many commissions during her lifetime. Lewis was the daughter of a Chippewa (Ojibwa) mother and an African American servant. She became an orphan at the age of four, and was raised by her mother’s people on the Mississagua Indian Reserve in Canada. Her brother, Sunrise, enrolled her in a school near Albany and she entered Oberlin College, Ohio, in ...

Article

Jacqueline Francis

(b Washington, DC, May 23, 1941).

American sculptor, printmaker, landscape designer and teacher. The eldest child of seven children born to Reginald Puryear, a postal worker, and Martina Puryear, a schoolteacher, Puryear majored in art at the Catholic University of America. He studied painting with Nell B. Sonneman and Franz Kline, while Robert Motherwell and Wyeth family were among the artists he admired. Puryear’s work earned him notice while he was still in college: his paintings were favorably reviewed in a group exhibition at Washington’s Adams-Morgan Gallery in 1962 and he won the Baltimore Museum of Art Purchase Prize for work displayed at that venue in 1963.

After earning his BA in art in 1963, Puryear joined the Peace Corps and taught English, French and biology in a rural Sierra Leone school from 1964 to 1966. He studied joinery and wood carving with local artists and made woodcuts and figure drawings of his environment and the people he encountered....

Article

American, 19th – 20th century, male.

Born 1879.

Sculptor (including wood/stone), ceramicist.

John Henry Smith was self-taught. His work seems to have been in circulation during the first exhibitions of African-American artists in the USA, which were held in the 1940s. Like other black artists of the time, such as Beauford Delaney and Palmer Hayden, he worked as a janitor. Little else is known of his life, and even the date of his death is unknown....

Article

Jenifer P. Borum

(b Pittsburgh, PA, 1958).

American painter and sculptor. Raised in the working-class East Liberty section of Pittsburgh, Stout was encouraged to make art by members of her family—her maternal uncle, a painter, and her grandfather, a blues musician. As a child, she took classes at the Carnegie Museum of Art, where she was introduced to African art, a significant formative experience for Stout, who would subsequently go on to engage the vernacular language of the African Diaspora in the Americas.

Stout earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Carnegie Mellon University in 1980. After graduation, she worked in residency at the Afro-American Artists Residency at Northeastern University in Boston. After moving to Washington, DC, in 1985, she began the ongoing practice of mixed-media assemblage that was to become her mature work. By reclaiming objects and elements from urban diasporic material culture such as root medicines, spirit writing and healing oils, Stout created assemblages and environments that effectively transformed gallery and museum spaces into liminal sites that mapped cultural crossroads—contact points between Africa and the Americas, tradition and innovation, high art and vernacular culture....

Article

American, 19th century, male.

Active in France and Italy.

Born 1825, in New Orleans; died 12 January 1859, in Rome.

Sculptor (marble). Portraits. Low reliefs.

Eugene Warburg was born a free African-American, son of a German house broker named Daniel Warburg. He was apprenticed to the French sculptor Philippe Garbeille in New Orleans. In ...

Article

Tracy Fitzpatrick

(b Bronx, NY, 1954).

American sculptor, installation and conceptual installation artist. Wilson was born in the Bronx, attended the LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts in Manhattan, and received his BFA from Purchase College, The State University of New York in 1976.

While at Purchase College, Wilson studied performance art and dance and also served as a guard at the Neuberger Museum of Art. After college, he worked in various capacities at several New York City museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Natural History. In 1987, he became the director of the Longwood Arts Project, where he organized “Rooms With a View,” an exhibition for which he borrowed museum experiences, weaving together art objects, display space, and institutional labels to interrogate methods of museum display and the meanings generated therein. This strategy, an Institutional Critique that Wilson referred to as “tromp l’oeil curating,” has emerged as the focus of his artistic practice....

Article

Patricia Hills

(b Roxbury, MA, April 14, 1922).

American sculptor, painter, printmaker and teacher. Raised in Roxbury, a suburb of Boston, Wilson was the second of five children of Reginald and Violet Wilson, immigrants from British Guiana (now the Republic of Guyana). He attended the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston with a full scholarship and received a diploma with highest honors in 1945; a BS degree in art education followed in 1947 from Tufts University. With a fellowship from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, he spent 1947–9 in Paris, where he studied with Fernand Léger. Returning to Boston he taught briefly at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, married Julie Kowitch and moved to Mexico City with a John Hay Whitney Fellowship. There he became friends with Elizabeth Catlett and her husband Francesco Mora, both active in the graphic workshop organized by leftist artists, the Taller de Gráfica Popular, where he worked. In Mexico he learned the techniques of true fresco, which had been popularized by Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros, and painted the mural, ...