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Elizabeth Catlett (American, 1915-2012)

Also known as:  Mora, Elizabeth Catlett

Birth Place: Washington, DC, United States)

Biography:

Who is sculptor Elizabeth Catlett?

Elizabeth Catlett is an abstract sculpture artist and graphic designer who often works with bronze and marvel. From the start, Catlett has been intrigued by African American, Native American, and Mexican art -- and often incorporates those themes into her sculptures. She is considered by most to be the greatest American black sculptor. Her groundbreaking work led to her being acknowledged by the mainstream art world as early as the 1940s, an astonishing feat for a woman of color at that time period. From an early age, her talent was undeniable.

This lifetime of work has led to numerous awards and fellowships. She received a Rosenwald Fellowship, the Women’s Caucus for Art Lifetime Achievement Award, a Legends and Legacy Award from the Art Institute of Chicago, and the prestigious Key of Life Award from the NAACP. She has an honorary doctorate from Carnegie Mellon, and her work is featured in almost every major American and Mexican art museum.

What kind of art does Elizabeth Catlett make?

Overwhelmingly, Elizabeth Catlett makes sculptures of the female form. Her work takes many mediums, wood, bronze, and marble among them. She is famous for using her own body as a model for her work. Since her college thesis, she has depicted African American women and children. This has often led her into decidedly political territory. Her famed linocut series “I am the Negro Woman” is directly inspired by what she learned from her students - working-class black men and women - during her time teaching at George Washington Carver School. Whatever the medium, print or sculpture, Catlett’s work is beautiful because of her smooth forms, brought about by years of honing her technique and craft.

How did sculptor Elizabeth Catlett get started?

Elizabeth Catlett was born to a working family in Washington D.C. where she spent much of her young life. Education was highly valued in the Catlettt hospital and as such, Elizabeth received a bachelor of arts degree from Howard University. She was accepted into the MFA program at the University of Iowa, graduating in 1940 -- the first black woman to ever attend that institution. While there she studied under the great regionalist painter, Grant Wood, who taught her to paint what she knew best. Catlett often credited Wood with freeing her to depict the reality of black women in her work.

Following graduation, she became the chair of the art department at Dillard University -- her time there would transform that school. By the end of her time, they would adopt the use of nude models in class, and gained entrance for black children into their museum, something that hadn’t been allowed up until that point. She moved to Mexico in the late 1940s and would spend much of the rest of her life there studying, sculpting, and promoting social justice.

How much are Elizabeth Catlett’s sculptures worth?

Elizabeth Catlett’s sculptures are worth $10,000 on the low end and over $350,000 on the high end. The most ever paid for an Elizabeth Catlett sculpture is $389,000 for the piece Seated Woman on October 8th, 2019. This represents a big shift in Catlett’s worth at auction, it ultimately outperformed its high estimates by more than double. Catlett’s work feels especially relevant and topical today -- which is a big appeal to many collectors of her art. That makes any Catlett piece worth a look when it becomes available at auction.

Where to buy Elizabeth Catlett sculptures for sale?

See the works for sale below. Why buy from Heritage? Art buyers feel confident because our experts know the market and put careful valuations on the artwork for sale. We make the bidding process easier to help you expand your art collection.

How to value Elizabeth Catlett sculptures?

The best way to value art is to compare past auction prices for similar works. View past sale prices below. When you’re ready to sell, contact Heritage Auctions to request an auction estimate of the likely selling price at auction. If you need a formal written appraisal for estate planning or insurance, please contact our Appraisal Services Department.


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Elizabeth Catlett Original Art values sold at auction

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