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Aaron Douglas (1899-1979)


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Mural Study for Cravath Hall, Fisk University, Nashville, TN, 1929
gouache on illustration board
14" x 32", signed and dated
 

Fire, 1971
gouache on paper
11" x 10 1/4" sheet size
10 3/8" x 9 1/2" sight size, signed and dated


Exhibitions


Prints & Publications


Artist Information

After receiving his B.A. from the University of Nebraska (1922) and his B.F.A. from the University of Kansas (1923), Aaron Douglas moved to New York City, where he studied art with German modernist Winold Reiss, who encouraged him to celebrate his heritage by introducing African motifs and themes into his paintings. Reiss also instructed him to flatten his figures and incorporate art deco design elements in his compositions. Douglas quickly became a leading artist of the Harlem Renaissance, contributing illustrations regularly to The Crisis, Opportunity, and Vanity Fair. He illustrated and co-created (along with Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and others) FIRE!!, a short-lived publication intended to be a “quarterly devoted to the younger Negro artist.” The only visual artist featured in Alain Locke’s 1925 anthology, The New Negroes, Douglas contributed drawings as well as an essay entitled “The Legacy of the Ancestral Arts.” Among his most important illustrative collaborations was his series of drawings for James Weldon Johnson’s God’s Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse (1927). Douglas spent 1931 in Paris, studying at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière and the Académie

Scandinave. In 1934, the WPA commissioned him to paint a series of four murals entitled Aspects of Negro Life for the 135th Street Branch of the New York Public Library. Douglas executed numerous other murals throughout his life, often depicting heroic and allegorical scenes of black history and culture such as those at the Erastus Craveth Memorial Library at Fisk University. In 1937, he founded and chaired the Art Department at Fisk, where he remained for twenty-nine years, earning his M.F.A. from Columbia University in the process. Even after his retirement from Fisk in 1966, Nashville remained Douglas’s home until his death in 1979. Douglas’ five decade career is currently the subject of a monograph and the first touring retrospective exhibition Aaron Douglas: African American Modernist organized by the Spencer Museum of Art at The University of Kansas.

 

SELECTED MUSEUM COLLECTIONS

Amistad Research Center, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA
The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, MD
Bennett College for Women Collection, Greensboro, NC
Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, OH
Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
de Young Museum, San Francisco, CA
Fisk University Gallery, Nashville, TN
Hampton University Museum, Hampton, VA
Howard University, Gallery of Art, Howard University, Washington, DC
Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, WI
LeMoyne-Owen College, Memphis, TN
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Museum of Art, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
Museum of Nebraska Art, Kearney, NE
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC
North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA
Savannah College of Art and Design, Lawrence, KS
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York, NY
Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery and Sculpture Garden, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE
Spencer Museum of Art, The University of Kansas, Savannah, GA
The Yale Collection of American Literature, The Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, New Haven, CT

2003 
Aaron Douglas: A Private View.  Selections from the Daniels Collection, Frist Center for Visual Arts, Nashville, TN

2007-2008
Aaron Douglas:  African American Modernist, Spencer Museum of Art, Lawrence, KS; Frist Center for Visual Arts, Nashville, TN; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC; Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York, NY
 

1971
Black Artists: Two Generations, The Newark Museum, Newark, NJ

1978
New York/Chicago: WPA and the Black Artist, Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY

1988-89
Harlem Renaissance: Art of Black America, American Federation of Art, New York, NY

1989
Bowdoin College Museum of Art, Brunswick, ME

1993
African-American Art: 20th Century Masterworks, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, LLC, New York, NY

1995
African-American Art: 20th Century Masterworks II, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, LLC, New York, NY; Long Beach Museum of Art, Long Beach, CA

1997
Visions of My People: African American Art in Tennessee, Tennessee State Museum, Nashville, TN
Rhapsodies in Black: Art of the Harlem Renaissance, Hayward Gallery, London; Arnolfini, Bristol; Mead Gallery, University of Warwick, England; M.H. de Young Memorial Museum, San Francisco; The Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
Revisiting American Art: Works from the Collections of Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Katonah Museum of Art, Katonah, NY

1998
Black New York Artists of the 20th Century, Selections from the Schomburg Center Collections, The New York Public Library, New York, NY
African-American Art: 20th Century Masterworks V, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, LLC, New York, NY; Newcomb Art Gallery, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA

1999
Locating the Spirit: Religion and Spirituality in African-American Art, Anacostia Museum and Center for African American History and Culture, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC

2001
African-American Art: 20th Century Masterworks VIII, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, LLC, New York, NY; Texas Southern University Museum, Houston, TX

2004
Embracing the Muse: Africa and African American Art, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, LLC, New York, NY

2005
Syncopated Rhythms: 20th Century African American Art from the George & Joyce Wein Collection, Boston University Art Gallery, Boston, MA

2006
Building Community: The African American Scene, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, LLC, New York, NY

2008
African American Art: 200 Years, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, LLC, New York, NY

2009
Il Secolo del Jazz: Arte, Cinema, Musica e Fotografia da Picasso a Basquiat (The Jazz Century: Art, Cinema, Music and Photography from Picasso to Basquiat), Museo di Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, Rovereto, Italy; Museé du quai Branly, Paris, France; Centro de Cultura Contemporànea, Barcelona, Spain
New Acquisitions: African American Masters Collection, Sheldon Museum of Art, Lincoln, NB
A Force for Change: African American Art and the Julius Rosenwald Fund, The Spertus Museum, Chicago, IL; Allentown Art Museum, Allentown, PA; Montclair Art Museum, Montclair, NJ
Harlem Renaissance, Oklahoma City Museum of Art, Oklahoma City, OK

2010
Afro Modern: Journeys Through the Black Atlantic, Tate Liverpool, Liverpool, England

2012
INsite/INchelsea: The Inaugural Exhibition, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY

2014
The Harmon & Harriet Kelley Collection of African American Art: Works on Paper, Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA
Conversations: African and African American Artworks in Dialogue from the Collections of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art and Camille O. and William H. Cosby Jr., Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, Washington, DC