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Estimate: $ 12,000 - $ 18,000
JAMES C. MCMILLAN (1925 - ) Dark Corner.
Oil on cotton canvas, 1960. 914x711 mm; 36x28 inches. Signed and dated in oil, lower right.
Provenance: acquired directly from the artist; private collection, New York.
Exhibited: The Art of James C. McMillan: Loss and Redemption - A Retrospective. African-American Atelier, Inc. Greensboro, NC, 2011; Loss and Redemption: The Art of James C. McMillan, Bakersfield Museum of Art, Bakersfield, CA, 2009.
Illustrated: Harris, Shawnya. The Art of James C. McMillan: Discovering An African-American Master, fig. 54, p. 38.
Born in Sanford, North Carolina, James C. McMillan was encouraged by his college-educated parents to pursue his interest in art. Talented and driven from a young age, McMillan graduated valedictorian from his high school class at the age of 15, and won a scholarship to Howard University in 1941. There McMillan studied under Alain Locke, Loïs Mailou Jones and James Lesesne Wells. Jones became his mentor, arranging for an illustration assistant position with the painter Ralston Crawford, and recommending him for Skowhegan. After Naval service during World War II, McMillan graduated in 1947 and earned a summer fellowship at the inaugural year of the Skowhegan School of Art in Maine, becoming its first African-American fellow. After three years teaching at Bennett College for Women in Greensboro as the chair of their new art department, McMillan struck out for Paris, following in the footsteps of Jones, and attended the Académie Julian in 1950 on sabatical. McMillan returned to Bennett College in 1951, and then, while on another sabatical, earned his MFA in sculpture from Catholic University in Washington, DC. From 1958-1961, McMillan had a summer fellowship for doctoral study in painting at Syracuse University.
Dark Corner shows how McMillan's expressive figuration evolved after his social-realism of the 1940s and 50s. This work shows a more modernist approach to both the figure and the composition. McMillan was certainly influenced by the work of other African-American artists, including Charles Alston, Charles White and John Wilson, but here we see the influence of the European artists he saw and studied while abroad in Paris. The room and the view of the building through the window are painted in a proto-Cubist fashion.
In addition to the private collections that lent to his recent retrospective, McMillan's work can be found in the the collections of Bennett College, North Carolina Central University Art Museum, Guilford College and Virginia State University. Harris pp. 11-17, 48.