Oil on linen canvas, 2014. 711x749 mm; 28x29 1/2 inches. Signed in oil, lower right.
Provenance: estate of the artist, New York.
Souvenir No. III is a significant and wonderful example of Eldzier Cortor's accomplished painting. It demonstrates the remarkable continuity in his practice - working until the last moments of a long and very distinguished career. In the summer of 2014, at the age of 98, Cortor painted this canvas and his Trilogy series, each with compositions of a trio of women - invoking the classical subject of the three graces.
The subject fits into Eldzier Cortor's decades-long series of "classical compositions" celebrating the form and beauty of African-American women. With his characteristic dense layering of brush and palette work, this composition is punctuated by his devices of the conch shell, painted chair, the arch and window shutters, also found in such canvases as Cuban Souvenir in the David C. Driskell collection and Island Souvenir, 1998.
Cortor has incorporated elements of Caribbean culture since the 1940s - in 1949, he received a Guggenheim Fellowship to travel in the West Indies. After time in Jamaica and Cuba, Cortor settled in Haiti for two years where he taught classes at the Le Centre d'Art d'Haïti in Port-au-Prince. Beyond his early academic training at the Art Institute of Chicago, and his travels to the Sea Islands and West Indies, these paintings show the influence of his study of African sculpture and 19th-century French painting. Unlike his social realist counterparts, Cortor investigated both the formalism and symbolism of the African-American female figure.