Apr 05, 2018 - Sale 2472

Sale 2472 - Lot 28

Price Realized: $ 209,000
?Final Price Realized includes Buyer’s Premium added to Hammer Price
Estimate: $ 80,000 - $ 120,000
Head of a Woman (Woman).

Oil on linen canvas, 1942-44. 305x254 mm; 12x10 inches. Initialed "EC" and dated "42" in oil, lower left. Signed and dated "1944" in oil, lower right.

Provenance: Charles White; Nina Goodman, New York; private collection, New York.

Exhibited: Paintings, Sculpture and Prints of the Negro Woman by Elizabeth Catlett, The Barnett Aden Gallery, Washington, DC, December 1947 - January 1948; Struggle and Serenity: The Visionary Art of Elizabeth Catlett, The Caribbean Cultural Center, New York, May 16 - August 16, 1996; Digame: Elizabeth Catlett's Forever Love, Harvard University, March 10 - May 26, 2011; Remembering Elizabeth Catlett: Sculpture, Paintings and Prints, June Kelly Gallery, in collaboration with Sragow Gallery, New York, January 24 - February 25, 2014.

Illustrated: Melanie Herzog. Elizabeth Catlett: An American Artist in Mexico, p. 41; Lucinda H. Gedeon. Elizabeth Catlett Sculpture: A Fifty Year Retrospective, p. 15.

Head of a Woman is a wonderful modern portrait and very scarce example of Elizabeth Catlett's oil painting from her New York period. Her earliest paintings, made between 1942 and 1946, prior to her move to Mexico, are very scarce. We have located or found records of only 12 other paintings in private collections - most are similar small portraits in either oil, tempera or watercolor. This is only the second oil on canvas by the artist to come to auction.

Head of a Woman shows Elizabeth Catlett's growing interest in both modernism and social realism. In 1942, Elizabeth Catlett and her then husband Charles White moved to New York after their meeting in Chicago and her time teaching at Dillard University in New Orleans. Her first summer in New York, Catlett took private lessons and worked in the studio of the Russian modernist Ossip Zadkine who introduced her to ideas of abstraction in sculpture. In 1943, White and Catlett spent a year away at the Hampton Institute in Virginia where White had a Rosenwald fellowship. From 1944 to 1946, Catlett worked at the George Washington Carver School. There, with White and such other artists as Gwendolyn Bennett, Ernest Crichlow and Norman Lewis, Catlett taught sculpture and sewing. Teaching working people in a progressive community school in Harlem gave Catlett, according to Herzog, an intimate view of urban struggles. This experience added to the social and political consciousness of her artwork. Herzog pp. 30-31; 40, 43 and 190.