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Ellis Wilson (1899-1977)


1 of 4

Peasant's Resting, c.1945
oil on Masonite
21" x 34", signed

 

Voodoo Dancers, c.1950
oil on Masonite
30" x 18 1/8", signed
 

Camion (Haiti), c.1950
oil on Masonite
24” x 34 3/8”, signed
 

Jac-Mel Haiti, c.1950
oil on Masonite
23 3/4" x 48", signed

 


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Artist Information

Born in Mayfield, Kentucky, Ellis Wilson studied at the Kentucky Normal and Industrial Institute (1916-1918) and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (1919-1923). After graduation, he worked as a commercial artist in Chicago before moving to New York in 1928. From 1935-1940, Wilson was employed by the Federal Arts Project and became involved with the Harlem Artists Guild and the Savage School of Arts and Crafts. During World War II, he worked in an aircraft engine factory and in 1944, received a Guggenheim Fellowship, which he used to travel throughout Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and South Carolina, painting local subjects, and focusing on the everyday lives of Southern African Americans. In 1948, he had a solo exhibition at the J.B. Speed

Art Museum in Louisville. In 1950, like many of his contemporaries, Wilson went to Haiti and became fascinated with the beauty of Haitian life and the Haitian people. Known for traditional figure studies and still-life paintings, Wilson’s method developed from a classical, academic approach to a more expressive one with an emphasis on color and elongated forms. He continued to paint until his death in 1977, however, he remained relatively unknown until 1985, when an episode of The Cosby Show centered on his Funeral Procession (c.1950) and sparked renewed interest in his work. In 2000, the University Art Galleries at Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky organized his first traveling retrospective and published a monograph.

SELECTED MUSUEM COLLECTIONS

Clark Atlanta University, Atlanta, GA
Greenville County Museum of Art, Greenville, SC
Howard University Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, NC
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York Public Library, New York, NY
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC
Smithsonian Archives of American Art, Washington, DC
Tulane University, Aaron Douglas Collection, Amistad Research Center