Brush, pen and ink on cream wove paper, 1942-43. 724x343 mm; 28 1/2x13 1/2 inches. Signed and titled in ink, lower margin.
Provenance: the artist, New York; Merton Simpson, New York; private collection, New York (1988).
Exhibited: Three Masters: Eldzier Cortor, Hughie Lee-Smith, Archibald John Motley, Jr., Kenkeleba Gallery, New York, May 22 - July 17, 1988.
This drawing is a remarkable study for the artist's best known painting, Southern Gate, 1942-43, in the collection of the National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. In 1988, united by the artist and gallery director, Corinne Jennings, this drawing and the painting were exhibited together in the Kenkeleba Gallery exhibition. The depiction of the female figure and the architectural elements are very similar to the final painting.This enigmatic and beautiful drawing displays the elegant draughtsmanship, depiction of the beauty of black women and attention to detail that Eldzier Cortor is known for.Born in Richmond, Virginia in 1916, his family moved to Chicago where he attended Englewood High School with future artists Margaret Burroughs, Charles White and Charles Sebree. He studied drawing at the Art Institute of Chicago, and was a founding member of the South Side Community Art Center where he taught during the Works Progress Administration. Painted during World War II, Southern Gate represented a transition from the social realism of the WPA period to an interest in both surrealism and naturalism in his painting. During this period, Cortor was awarded a Julius Rosenwald Fellowship in 1944-1945 to visit the Sea Islands, Georgia, a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1949 to Jamaica, Cuba, and Haiti, and to teach at the Centre d'Art, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, from 1949-1951 - all increased his awareness of the cultural legacies of the African diaspora, and further informed his painting. Cortor's work today is included in many important institutional collections such as the Brooklyn Museum, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.