Oil on canvas board, 1969. 508x406 mm; 20x16 inches. Signed and dated in oil, lower right.
Provenance: acquired directly from the artist; Mr. and Mrs. Louis Daniels, Nashville, TN.
Exhibited: Aaron Douglas: A Private View Selections from the Daniels Collection, Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, TN, October 24, 2003 – February 1, 2004; Berry-Hill Gallery, New York, with the label on the frame back.
This striking oil painting is an unusual example of a foray into abstraction by Aaron Douglas. Douglas had never completely crossed into abstraction like his peers Charles Alston and Hale Woodruff despite a modernist sensibility and his use of elements of Cubist design and geometric abstraction in his early painting. The concentric circles and tonal patterns Douglas employed as early as 1926 were innovative and strong indicators of his formal concerns. The earliest and best known example of his painterly abstraction is found in the oil on canvas, Birds in Flight, 1927. In 1973 Douglas recalled to David Driskell how "I wanted to create something new and modern that fitted in with Art Deco and the other things that were taking the country by storm. That is how I came upon the notion to use a number of things such as Cubism and a style with straight lines to emphasize the mathematical relationship of things." Kinshasha Holman Conwill in her Frist Center exhibition essay points out that "though these smaller-scale paintings lack the monumentality of Douglas's better-known murals, they affirm his enduring attraction to geometric abstraction." In 1969, while Douglas had been retired from Fisk University for three years, he continued to paint and exhibit his artwork. Earle p. 37.