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    Description

    CHARLES 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

    PROVENANCE:
    The artist;
    Bob Moore, Los Angeles, California, gift from the above, 1962;
    By descent to the present owner.

    EXHIBITED:
    ACA Galleries, New York, February 12-25, 1950.

    LITERATURE:
    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.

    Condition Report*: Date of 1950 appears to be added later by another hand and retraced over the previous "49."The ink medium is in stable condition throughout and well adhered to the primary paperboard support. The primary support is a Bainbridge laminate structure with a fine western wove facing paper applied to the surface. The paperboard support has minor losses and has somewhat begun to delaminate along the edges and corners due to frame installation methods, handling, and abrasion over time; these areas of insecurities and regions of delamination were consolidated with wheat starch paste to prevent loss. The facing paper was somewhat severely darkened and discolored overall and part of the discoloration has been reduced through removal of the grime layer in surface cleaning. However, the discoloration due to the inherent nature of the paperboard darkening over time cannot safely be addressed. The paper core of the laminate paper board is acidic in nature and has begun to discolor, affecting the facing paper. In addition, long-term exposure to the environment without glazing has resulted in some discoloration to the surface. There are several regions of pressure sensitive tape residue along the edges and corners, which were reduced mechanically under the microscope. The small areas of remaining residue are at the extreme edge of the object and cover only minor areas of the ink image. The object is in good condition overall. Framed Dimensions 37.25 X 27.25 Inches
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

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    Auction Dates
    November, 2014
    17th Monday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 0
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