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Estimate: $ 30,000 - $ 40,000
AARON DOUGLAS (1899 - 1979) The Street Urchin.
Oil on linen canvas, circa 1938. 610x700 mm; 24x27 1/2 inches. Signed in oil, lower right.
Provenance: Max Robinson, Chicago: Peter C. Ince, GA (1986); thence by descent to the current owners.
Exhibited: Exhibition of Haitian Paintings, ACA Gallery, New York, April 2 - 15, 1939; Selections from the Max Robinson Collection of Afro-American Art, DuSable Museum of African-American History, Chicago, February 1 - 28, 1985. Max Robinson was an ABC News World News Tonight reporter and broadcast journalist - he was the first African - America anchor on network television.
Illustrated: Exhibition of Haitian Paintings, ACA Gallery, New York, exhibition booklet, front cover; Alain L. Locke, The Negro in Art: A Pictorial Record of the Negro Artist and the Negro Theme in Art, 1940; Krista A. Thompson,"Preoccupied with Haiti: The Dream of Diaspora in African American Art, 1915–1942", American Art, p. 91. Krista Thompson located and illustrated a copy of the ACA booklet found in the Julius Rosenwald Archives at Fisk University, Nashville, TN.
A very scarce canvas from the artist's 1930s period, The Street Urchin is a beautiful example of Aaron Douglas' portrait painting. Unlike the unabashedly modern style of his mural painting, The Street Urchin embodies the introspective side of the artist. From the early 1930s, Aaron Douglas painted landscapes and portraits with impressionistic brushstrokes and palette. Despite his subject's poverty and a stark background, Douglas depicts this seated young man with a great sensitivity and studied observation.
In September of 1938, Aaron Douglas was awarded a second Rosenwald Fellowship which allowed him to travel to Haiti, the Dominican Republic and the Virgin Islands late that year. Like Walter Edouard Scott before him, Douglas painted and exhibited in and around Port-au-Prince through December. Thompson lists the twelve paintings that were included in his April solo exhibition in New York; The Street Urchin is one of only two figurative subjects. The exhibition was reviewed by both the New York Times and Alain Locke in Opportunity, who viewed Douglas' more conventional Haitian paintings "as a retreat from his bold earlier style." However, as Susan Earle points out, Locke later chose The Street Urchin as one of the illustrations of Aaron Douglas' paintings in his 1940 book The Negro in Art. Earle pp. 217-18; Thompson pp. 90-92.