What is color to an artist?

Author:Dodson, Angela P.
Position:Archibald J. Motley Jr. The David C. Driskell Series of African American Art, Volume IV - Book Review
 
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Archibald J. Motley Jr. The David C. Driskell Series of African American Art, Volume IV by Amy M. Mooney Pomegranate, September 2004 $35., ISBN 0-764-92886-4

As a portrait artist, Archibald J. Motley Jr. constructed images of African Americans that virtually forced the beholder to take in all of his subject's humanity. That in its day was a courageous and confrontational posture for an artist. Absent were the stereotypes common in other depictions of black characters. "I tried to paint the Negro as I have seen him and as I feel him, in myself without adding or detracting, just being frankly honest," he once said.

Yet critics sometimes accused him of engaging in caricature in his efforts to show the full range of "black" appearance, social strata and experience he saw in life. Motley himself was New Orleans Creole by birth and a product of Chicago's turn-of-the-century black elite by upbringing. The son of a founder of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters and of socially ambitious schoolteacher, he grew up in largely white surroundings and married a white woman.

In this book, Amy M. Mooney, professor of art history and critical theory at Columbia College in Chicago, traces his life and his journey as an artist who earned many "firsts" and lasting acclaim. Motley, who lived from 1891 to 1981,...

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