DescriptionCHARLES WILBERT WHITE (American, 1918-1979)
Harriet Tubman, 1949
Ink and pencil on board
30 x 20 inches (76.2 x 50.8 cm)
Signed and bears date lower left: Charles White '49
Bob Moore, Los Angeles, California, gift from the above, 1962;
By descent to the present owner.
ACA Galleries, New York, February 12-25, 1950.
Worker Magazine, New York, Sunday, February 12, 1950, illustrated;
New Foundations, A Student Quarterly, Spring 1950, cover illustration;
B. Moore, "Charles White: America's Most Celebrated Negro Artist," Sepia 11:5, May 1962, pp. 5-9 (written by original owner);
R. Bearden and H. Henderson, "Charles White," A History of African-American Artists, New York, 1993, pp. 405-17.
This work retains the artist's original wood slat frame.
With pure virtuosity and attuned skill, Charles Wilbert White utilizes the techniques of hatching and cross-hatching to create this portrait of the noted abolitionist and humanitarian Harriet Tubman. As exemplified by the stylized structure of Tubman's hands and the humanity of her face, the image juxtaposes the overt stylization of his earliest work with his later, more delicate drawings of common people.
During his earlier work with the WPA, White had explored similar historical subjects, most notably in his mural for the 1940 American Negro Exposition in Chicago and, three years later, in Contribution of the Negro to American Democracy at the Hampton Institute (now Hampton University). Later that decade, White would feature figures depicted in these works in individual or group portraits, some of which were presented at his first solo show at ACA Galleries in New York in 1947. Contributing to his complexity as an artist of social concern, his formative skills had been informed by the Mexican muralists and by his work with the Taller de Gráfica and later with the New York Graphic Workshop and The Art Students League.
In this exquisite portrait of Harriet Tubman, a tattered map of the Underground Railroad hangs in the background as her clenched left hand rests upon a simple wood table. Her gentle but intense gaze and her right hand point upward, beyond the frame of the composition. As White was particularly politically and socially-minded during these years of artistic production, one can immediately identify the passion and intensity with which he illuminates Tubman's historical and personal significance.
Estimate: $80,000 - $120,000.
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