Black Printmakers and the WPA

Introduction by Nina Castelli Sundell
Essay by Leslie King-Hammond, Curator
Bibilography

 

 

Who Likes War? or Justice at Wartime (n.d.)
Blockprint
7 1/4" x 6 3/8"
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library

 

CHARLES ALSTON

Charles Alston, painter, sculptor, graphic artist, illustrator, and educator, was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1907. He received his B.A. and M.A. degrees from Columbia University and also studied at New York University. He taught at the Harlem Community Art Center, Harlem Art Workshop, and Pennsylvania State University, and he was associate professor of painting at The City University of New York. Alston worked as a muralist for the WPA during the Depression. His two-panel mural of that period, Magic and Medicine, can be seen at Harlem Hospital. Other works can be seen at The Metropolitan Museum of Art; The Whitney Museum of American Art; Butler Art Institute, Youngstown, Ohio; Detroit Institute of Art; Atlanta University; and Howard University, Washington, D.C. Alston was a member of the Board of Directors of the National Society of Mural Painters and an active member of Spiral, an artists'collaborative in the '60s. As an educator, he was selected by the Museum of Modern Art and the U.S. State Department to be coordinator of the children's creative center at the 1958 Brussels World's Fair. Alston died April 27, 1977, in New York City.

 

People in a Boat, n.d.
Lithograph, Artist Proof 15 3/8" x 19 7/9"
Collection of Riva Helfond

R0BERT BLACKBURN

Graphic artist and painter Robert Blackburn was born in Summit, New Jersey, in 1920. He studied in New York City at the Art Students League, the Uptown Art Laboratory, the Harlem Community Art Center, the Wallace Harrison School of Art, and at Atelier 17. He worked with the WPA Harlem Community Art Center and has been on the faculty of Cooper Union, the School of Visual Arts, and New York University. He currently teaches at Columbia University. Blackburn is the founder and director of the Printmaking Workshop in New York, where he has supervised artists' editions by Benny Andrews, Will Garnet, Romare Bearden, Boris Margo, and John von Wicht. in 1954 Blackburn was the recipient of a Whitney Fellowship. He received the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture award in 1987 and the Governor's award in 1988. His work is represented in numerous collections, among which are The Brooklyn Museum; The Baltimore Museum of Art; the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.; and Atlanta University.

Wrestlers, n.d.
Etching, ed.
16/25 7 1/2" x 10 1/2"
Cleveland Public Library, Fine Arts and Special Collections Department

ELMER BROWN

Elmer Brown, painter, designer, cartoonist, illustrator, and educator was born in Pittsburgh in 1909. He studied at the Cleveland School of Art under Paul Travis and at the John Huntington Polytechnic Institute in Cleveland. Brown participated in the WPA/FAP programs in Cleveland as a printmaker and muralist. He taught at the Playhouse Settlement in Cleveland where he worked as a graphic designer until his death in 1971.

Abstract, n.d.
Lithograph
18" x 131/2" framed
Free Library of Philadelphia,
Print and Picture Department

SAMUEL JOSEPH BROWN

Samuel Joseph Brown, painter, printmaker, sculptor, and educator, was born in 1907 in Wilmington, North Carolina. He studied at the Pennsylvania Museum School of Industrial Art and at Teachers College, the University of Pennsylvania. He was on the faculty of the BOK Vocational School, Philadelphia, and is a member of the Philadelphia Water Color Club, The National Forum of Professional Artists, The International Graphic Arts Educational Association, the Delaware Valley Artist Guild, and the Brandywine Graphic Workshop. Brown worked with the WPA/FAP in Philadelphia. His work is represented in the collections of the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Barnett-Aden Collection, Washington, D.C.; Temple University, Philadelphia; Howard University, Washington, D.C.; the National Archives; and in numerous civic buildings in the Philadelphia area, where he presently resides.
.

 

Untitled (Head of a Young Boy)
Linocut
11 3/8 x 9 3/8
Signed: Fred Carlo
Schomburg Center for Research in
Black Culture, The New York Public
Library

FRED CARLO

Fred Carlo, painter, sculptor, and printmaker, was a member of the group of young artists who participated in the programs of Karamu Settlement House in Cleveland. Carlo was active in Cleveland throughout the early 1940s and hibited at the 1940 Chicago American Negro Exposition.

 

Time Out, n.d.
Etching
11 x 13 1/2"
Free Library of Philadelphia, Print and Picture Department

CLAUDE CLARK

Claude Clark, Sr., painter, draftsman, and educator, was born in 1915 in Rockingham, Georgia. He studied at the Philadelphia Museum School; the Barnes Foundation Philadelphia; Sacramento (California) State College, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree; and at the University of California, Berkeley, where he received his Master's degree. Clark resides in Oakland, California, where he has retired as professor emeritus from the Merritt Campus of the Peralta College District, Oakland. He established the art department at the Talladega College in Alabama and participated in the development of the carbograph with Dox Thrash and Raymond Steth. Clark's work is represented in the collections of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture of the New York City Public Library; the Oakland Museum; Atlanta University; Fisk University, Nashville, Tennessee; and at the Smithsonian institution, Washington, D.C. During the Depression he was a member of the WPA/FAP Graphics Division in Philadelphia where he shared a studio with fellow artist Raymond Steth. Clark continues to produce his own prints, which will be represented in the exhibition of contemporary Brazilian and American artists of African descent in Brazil in 1989.

 

Lovers, 1938
Lithograph, ed.
23/30 15" x 31 3/4"
Paper Collection of the artist

ERNEST CRICHLOW

Ernest Crichlow, painter, illustrator, and graphic artist, was born in New York City in 1914. He studied at New York University and at the Art Students League, New York. Crichlow worked for the FAP in the Greensboro, North Carolina, Art Project, and at the Harlem Community Art Center. He is a co-founder of the Cinque Gallery, New York, with Norman Lewis and Romare Bearden. He has exhibited widely and his work can be seen at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York City Public Library. Crichlow is on the faculty of the Art Students League.

 

Liberty Street Ferry, n.d.
Lithograph, ed.
23/30 15 1/8" x 20"
Collection of the artist

RIVA HELFOND

Riva Helfond, painter, printmaker, and educator, was born in Brooklyn. She studied at the School of Industrial Art and the Art Students League, both in New York. Helfond taught in the WPA/FAP programs in New York from 1936 to 1941 and was on the creative staff of their graphics division. In 1964 she taught printmaking at New York University and since 1980 has been on the faculty of Union College, Cranford, New Jersey Her work can be seen in the collections of the California State Museum, Los Angeles; Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh; Cincinnati Museum; Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.; Metropolitan Museum of Art; Miami Museum of Fine Art; Museum of Modern Art; Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.; Miami Center for Fine Arts; New York Public Library, Print Collection; and the Boston Public Library Print Collection. Helfond has exhibited widely and is the recipient of numerous awards, most recently the Society of American Graphic Artists Award for Outstanding Collograph. Her work is included in the Archives of American Art.


Still Life with Fetish, 1938
Wood engraving
17" x 21" framed
Courtesy Kenkeleba Gallery

WILMER JENNINGS

Wilmer Jennings, painter, printmaker, designer, educator, and jeweler, was born in 1910 in Atlanta, where, during the Depression, he was a member of the WPA/FAP. He studied at Morehouse College, Atlanta, where he received his Bachelor of Arts degree in 1931 under the guidance of Hale Woodruff. He has studied at the Rhode Island School of Design, in Providence, where he resides and continues to work.

Dorothy, c. 1938
Lithograph
14 1/8" x 8" image
The Baltimore Museum of Art, on deposit from the United States

SARGENT JOHNSON

Sargent Johnson, sculptor, ceramist, lithographer, and teacher, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1887. He studied at the Boston School of Fine Arts, and at the California School of Fine Arts, in San Francisco, under Ralph Stackpole and Benjamin Bufano. His work gained public attention and recognition at the San Francisco Art Association exhibition in 1925. From 1926 through 1935, Johnson exhibited extensively with the Harmon Foundation, New York, from which he received numerous awards. Johnson was a member of the San Francisco Art association in 1932 and on the Council Board of the Association in 1934. He participated in the WPA/FAP in the Bay Area as an artist, as senior sculptor, and finally as unit supervisor. Johnson taught at the Junior Workshop of the San Francisco Housing Authority and at Mills College, Oakland, California, as well as privately. He traveled extensively in Japan and in Mexico where his experiences on archaeological sites helped him refine his skills as a ceramist. His work can be seen in the collections of the San Francisco Museum of Art; the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; the Oakland Museum, California; the Cleveland Museum of Art; and Fisk University Nashville, Tennessee. Johnson died in San Francisco in 1967.

Folk Family, n.d.
Serigraph and tempera
15 5/8" x 10 3/4" image
National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, gift of Mrs. Douglas E. Younger

WILLIAM HENRY JOHNSON

William Henry Johnson, painter and printmaker, was born in Florence, South Carolina, in 1901. He studied under Charles L. Hinton at the National Academy of Design, New York, and under Charles W. Hawthorne at the Cape Cod School of Art in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Johnson traveled, lived, and worked extensively in Europe and Africa. He exhibited widely both in the United States and abroad. In 1939 he joined the mural section of the WPA in New York City and taught at the Harlem Community Art Center. In 1942 he was awarded a certificate of honor for his "distinguished service to America in art," during National Negro Achievement Day in New York. His work is found in the collections of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; The Museum of African Art, Washington, D.C.; Atlanta University; and Hampton institute, Hampton, Virginia. Johnson died in Long Island in 1971.

 

Graphic Workshop, 1935-37
Lithograph, Artist Proof
14 1/18" x 16 1/14"
Collection of Riva Helfond

RONALD JOSEPH

Ronald Joseph, painter, printmaker, muralist, was born in 1910 on St. Kitts, in the West Indies. With the benefit of scholarships he was educated in New York at the Ethical Culture School, Fieldston School and Pratt Institute, Brooklyn. In the company of Robert Blackburn, he studied printmaking with Riva Helfond at the Harlem Arts Center where he also served as a teacher. He was a participant in the mural section of the WPA and a representative of the Harlem Artists' Guild to the New York Worlds Fair (1939-1940). Joseph enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps at the declaration of World War II and was posted as a member of the ground crew at Tuskegee, Alabama, and in Michigan. After the war he was awarded a Rosenwald Fellowship, permitting him to travel and live in Peru for two years. Joseph used the G.l. bill to study in Paris at the Grande Chaumière. He resides in Brussels where he continues to work as a painter.

 

Musicians, c. 1938
Lithograph
20 1 14" x 13"
Collection of Ouida Lewis

NORMAN LEWIS

Painter Norman Lewis was born in New York City in 1909. Lewis studied at Columbia University and with the artists Augusta Savage, Ralph Soyer, Vaclav Vytacil, and Angela Streater. From 1936 to 1939 he worked on the Harlem Art Center FAP as an artist and teacher. Lewis was a member of the Artists' Union and was involved with Spiral, a group of Black artists who organized to show their concern for the civil rights movement after the 1963 March on Washington. With fellow artists Ernest Crichlow and Romare Bearden, he organized the Cinque Gallery in New York. Lewis's work can be seen in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art; the Munson-Williams Proctor Institute, Utica, New York; the Art Institute of Chicago; and in numerous private and corporate collections. Lewis died in 1979.

 

Colonial Park, c. 1940
Lithograph
16" x 23"
Schomburg Center for Research in
Black Culture, The New York Public
Library

RICHARD LINDSEY

Richard William Lindsey, painter and graphic artist, was born in North Carolina in 1904. He studied at the National Academy of Design New York. Lindsey received numerous awards for his work. He participated in major exhibitions at the Harmon Foundation in the 1920s and 1930s; at the Herron Art Institute, Indianapolis; the Baltimore Museum; the American Negro Exposition, Chicago (1940); as well as exhibits at the 135th Street Branch, New York Public Library; Atlanta University; and the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C. Lindsey's work is represented in the collection of the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

 

Bertha, n.d.
Etching/aquatint
13" x 10"
Cleveland Public Library, Fine Arts and Special Collections Department

CHARLES L. SALLEE, JR.

Charles L. Sallee, Jr., painter and graphic artist, was born in 1913 in Oberlin, Ohio. He studied at the Western Reserve University, John Huntington Polytechnic Institute, and the Cleveland Museum School of Art. From 1936 to 1937 he participated in the FAP in Cleveland where he presently resides and works. Sallee has taught at the Playhouse Settlement, Karamu Settlement House, and at Kennard Junior High School in Cleveland. His work is in the collections of the National Museum of American Art in Washington, D.C., Cleveland Museum of Art; Howard University, Washington,: D.C.; and the Sunny Acres Hospital in Cleveland.

 

Artist Life #3, 1939
Lithograph
10"x12"
Cleveland Public Library, Fine Arts and Special Collections Department

HUGHIE LEE-SMITH

Hughie Lee-Smith was born in Eustis, Florida, in 1915. In Cleveland, where he moved at an early age, he studied at the Cleveland Museum, the Cleveland School of Art (now the Cleveland Institute of Art), and as a scholarship student at the Karamu Settlement House, where he also taught. Lee-Smith received his B.S. degree from Wayne State University in Detroit. He worked with the WPA/FAP in Cleveland as a printmaker. His works are represented in the collections of the Detroit Institute of Art; the Lagos Museum, Lagos, Nigeria; Howard University, Washington, D.C.; and Atlanta University. Lee-Smith organized the first exhibition of African American artists in the Midwest in 1943. He is a member of the National Academy of Design, New York, Artists Equity Association, and Allied Artists of America. Lee-Smith has been on the faculty of Claflin University, Orangeburg, North Carolina; was artist-in-residence at Howard University; and now teaches at the Art Students League, New York. He lives in New Jersey.

Beacons of Defense, n.d.
Lithograph
18 7/18" x 25 1/18"
Free Library of Philadelphia,
Print and Picture Department

RAYMOND STETH

The graphic artist Raymond Steth was born in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1918. He studied under Henry Richter and Michael Gallagher. In 1938 he worked on the development of the Carborundum print with Dox Thrash (the inventor of the Carborundum print process) and Michael Gallagher, further developing it into a color process. In 1940 he joined the graphics division of the FAP in Philadelphia, where he co-organized an independent printmaking/ graphics workshop called "Philographics." Steth was responsible for consultation and procurement for the graphic arts and printmaking departments for the Morgan State College Fine Arts Building in Baltimore. He was guest curator at the Philadelphia Print Club from 1942 to 1943. His work is included in the collections of The Metropolitan Museum of Art; Howard University, Washington, D.C.; the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., the Corcoran Gallery, Washington D.C.; the New Jersey State Library, Newark; Morgan State College; the Library of Congress, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Abraham, n.d.
"Carbograph" (Carborundum mezzotint)
10 1/2" x 8"
Free Library of Philadelphia, Print and Picture Department

DOX THRASH

Dox Thrash, painter, printmaker, and teacher, was born in Griffin, Georgia, in 1893 and died in Philadelphia in 1965. Thrash studied art through correspondence courses, joined the American Expeditionary Force during World War I, and from 1919 to 1922 studied at the Art Institute of Chicago. From 1939 to 1940 he worked on the Pennsylvania Federal Art Project. Thrash invented the Carborundum print process. His work is represented in the collections of the Library of Congress; the Philadelphia Museum of Art; the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.; and Howard University, Washington, D.C. At the time of his death, his personal collection was acquired by the Philadelphia Public Library.

 

Trusty on a Mule, 1939
Woodcut, signed lower right
14 3/4" x 18"
Collection of Richard Clarke

HALE WOODRUFF

Hale A. Woodruff, painter, printmaker, muralist, and educator, was born in Cairo, Illinois, August 26, 1900, and died in September 1980. He studied art at the John Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis; at the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University; and in Pads, at the Academie Scandinave and the Academie Moderne. As an instructor of art at Atlanta University, he inspired a number of young artists, among them Wilmer Jennings. While at Atlanta University, he initiated the Atlanta Annual art exhibition. He was professor of art education at New York University until his retirement. During the Depression, Woodruff was an instructor for WPA/FAP programs in Atlanta. He was a member of the New Jersey Society of Artists; the Society of Mural Painters; the Committee on Art Education at the Museum of Modern Art; and the New York State Council on the Arts. The "Amistad" murals in Savery Library at Talladega College, Alabama, reflect the influence of Diego Rivera, with whom he studied in Mexico. Woodruff's work is included in the collections of the Newark Museum, New Jersey; Howard University, Washington, D.C.; Spelman College, Atlanta; New York University; the Library of Congress; the National Archives; and the Harmon Foundation.