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Estimate: $ 12,000 - $ 18,000
EDWIN A. HARLESTON (1882 - 1931) The Little Newsboy.
Oil on linen canvas, circa 1925. 406x305 mm; 16x12 inches. Signed in oil, lower right.
Provenance: the artist; Edwina Harleston Whitlock; thence by descent to the current owner.
Exhibited: Edwin A. Harleston, Painter of an Era, 1882-1931, Your Heritage House, Detroit, MI, March 13 - June 20, 1983.
This charming painting of a young boy is an excellent and very scarce example of the portraiture of Edwin A. Harleston. Harleston was a talented portrait artist working at the beginning of the 20th Century. He moved from his hometown Charleston, South Carolina to Boston in 1906 after completing his B.A. from Clark Atlanta University, and enrolled in the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. He was the only African American in his first-year class of 232 students. However, financial difficulties kept Harleston from completing his studies in Boston until 1912.
Harleston's practice soon became intertwined with his family's history in Charleston. He painted while working in the family funeral business after returning to Charleston after World War I. In 1920, Harleston married Elise Forrest, a photographer, and two years later, they opened a joint studio--the first of its kind in Charleston. Harleston developed his reputation for portraiture, winning several prestigious commissions like the portrait of industrialist Pierre S. Du Pont in 1924. Edwin Harleston assisted Aaron Douglas in 1930 with the painting murals for Fisk University. In February 1931, Harleston learned that he had finally won a Harmon Foundation award; however, he died from pneumonia only three months later.
The subject of this portrait was a delivery boy for the black-owned newspaper Charleston Messenger. The newspaper was published by the Rev. Daniel J. Jenkins (1862-1937), founder of the Jenkins Orphanage in Charleston and the husband of the artist's sister, Eloise. The Jenkins Orphanage also formed a marching band of young boys - the Jenkins Orphanage Band became famous, performing internationally and at the inaugural parades of Theodore Roosevelt and William Taft.
Harleston's paintings are found today in the collections of the Gibbes Museum of Art and the Old Slave Mart Museum, both in Charleston, Fisk University, Howard University, Clark Atlanta University and Dr. Walter O. Evans, Savannah, GA. Ball pp. 83-89, 200-201; Reynolds/Wright p. 199.