ELIZABETH CATLETT (1915 - 2012) Untitled (Young Woman Looking Up).
Tempera on cream wove paper, mounted to board, 1954. 724x559 mm; 28 1/2x22 inches. Signed and dated in pencil, lower left.
Provenance: acquired directly from the artist; George W. Crockett, Jr. and Ethelene J. Crockett, MD (1954), Detroit, Michigan; thence by descent, private collection, Virginia. The Crocketts were close friends of Elizabeth Catlett and Francisco Mora, and acquired this portrait during a visit to Mexico City. Catlett also drew a large portrait of Ethelene Crockett in pencil in 1958.
George William Crockett, Jr. (1909 - 1997) was an African American attorney, jurist, and congressman from Michigan. He also served as a national vice-president of the National Lawyers Guild and co-founded what is believed to be the first racially integrated law firm in the United States.
Dr. Ethelene Jones Crockett (1914 - 1978) was a physician and community activist. She was Michigan's first African American female board certified OB/GYN, the first woman to be president of the American Lung Association, and inducted posthumously into the Michigan Women's Hall of Fame.
This significant, modern portrait of a young woman is a scarce example of mid-century painting by Elizabeth Catlett. Most of Catlett's paintings, of which only about a dozen are recorded today, are portraits in oil or tempera from her 1940s New York period. This work is part of the artist's important body of work exploring the representation of African American women. This large image shows Catlett's transition in her figuration from the modernist stylization of the late 1940s to realism in the early 1950s.
The painting was made at an important juncture in her career, during a period of great production as a member of the Taller de Gráfica Popular. Catlett produced a large body of graphic work - taking a break from her sculpture while raising her young family of three sons. She first exhibited her linoleum cut Sharecropper in 1951 in Atlanta. Between 1953-54, Catlett created a series of a dozen linoleum cuts of African American heroes and heroines from Crispus Attucks to Paul Robeson. She then returned to making sculpture in 1955.