- James Smalls
(b New York City, 1909; d New York City, Aug 27, 1979).
African American painter. Norman Lewis was the first major African American painter associated with Abstract Expressionism. His body of works includes paintings, drawings and murals. A life-long resident of Harlem, New York, he was influenced early on by the sculptor and teacher Augusta Savage, who provided him with open studio space at her Harlem Art Center. It was there that he studied African art intensely and was introduced to Alain Locke (1886–1954), Howard University professor and intellectual leader of the Harlem Renaissance. Lewis became familiar with Locke’s ideas but soon questioned the wisdom of creating an art based on an “African” or “Negro” idiom. He thought Locke’s concept of art was limiting and wanted instead to be considered as an artist in the broadest sense of the term rather than just a “Negro artist.” In moving towards this goal, he exhibited with the American Abstract Artists, participated in the Works Progress Administration (WPA) art projects alongside his friends ...