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Bill Traylor (1854-1947)


Cat and Dog, c.1939-42
pencil and tempera on cardboard
22 1/4" x 14"
 


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Bill Traylor was born a slave before the end of the Civil War on the plantation of George Taylor near Benton, Alabama. He remained on the plantation even after his emancipation, working as a farmhand until he was eighty-four years old. In 1938, following the death of his wife, with whom he raised twenty-two children, Traylor moved to Montgomery, Alabama. Living in Montgomery in a state of squalor, Traylor unexpectedly began to create stylized primitive drawings, reflecting his life in the South. Traylor, a self-taught artist, would draw with any available material including crayons, pencils, and poster paint on found surfaces such as cardboard, posters, and odd pieces of paper. His imaginative compositions usually consist of animal or human forms. With the assistance and encouragement of patron Charles Shannon, Traylor created approximately fifteen hundred drawings in roughly three years. Traylor exhibited his drawings frequently in “his studio,” the sidewalk, but sales were few. In recent years, collectors and scholars internationally have rediscovered Traylor’s visionary work, and his career has been celebrated in numerous exhibitions and publications.