Art of the Harlem Renaissance

Timeline created by cbarta
  • The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. Du Bois

    The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. Du Bois
    Although this collection of essays on black life and race relations in the United States was published before the Harlem Renaissance, it was seminal in the movement. The title indicates a racist belief perpetuated at the time that black people were beasts and had no souls. Du Bois' praised lyricism details the duality of being black and living in a white world (NPR).
  • Head of a Woman (Fernande), Pablo Picasso

    Head of a Woman (Fernande), Pablo Picasso
    Spanish artist, Pablo Picasso, along with other European artists incorporated influences of African art, particularly masks, into his work. His cubist style was a new perspective, portraying the way an artist perceives the subject. Many Harlem Renaissance artists were influenced by Picasso’s cubism and his allusion to African artifacts (National Gallery of Art).
  • King Model Homes or Striver's Row, David H. King Jr.

    King Model Homes or Striver's Row, David H. King Jr.
    Built by David H. King Junior in the late 1800’s, the King Model Houses were constructed of red brick and brownstone and featured L-shaped stoops, detailed cornices, and black-railed balconies. Originally designed for well-to-do white residents, they weren’t opened to black residents until 1919 (Dixon Leasing).
  • If We Must Die, Claude McKay

    If We Must Die, Claude McKay
    McKay published “If We Must Die” in the magazine Liberator. It was a defense of black rights and suggested retaliation for prejudice and abuse. The poem, “If We Must Die” is an inspiration to persecuted people throughout the world
    (Poetry Foundation).
  • Ethiopia, Meta Warrick Fuller

    Ethiopia, Meta Warrick Fuller
    Meta Warrick Fuller created the sculpture Ethiopia as an “allegory for the musical and industrial contributions of African Americans to the development of the United States” (Artland). She studied under Auguste Rodin in Paris as his protege, but came back to the United States to work.
  • Shuffle Along, Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle

    Shuffle Along, Eubie Blake and Noble Sissle
    Shuffle Along, a musical comedy with an all-black cast, was the most significant achievement in black theatre of its time. It opened at the Howard Theatre in Washington D.C. and was later performed at the Sixty-third Street Theatre in New York City (BlackPast).
    Listen to I'm Just Wild About Harry
  • Canal Street Blues, King Oliver, Louis Armstrong

    Canal Street Blues, King Oliver, Louis Armstrong
    This is Louis Armstrong's first recording. He performed with King Oliver's Creole Jazz Band at the Gennett studios in Richmond, Indiana (Louis Armstrong House Museum).
    Listen HERE.
  • All God's Chillun Got Wings, Eugene O'Neill

    All God's Chillun Got Wings, Eugene O'Neill
    Eugene O'Neill's play, All God's Chillun Got Wings, is about racial intermarriage and was inspired by the old Negro spiritual. Paul Robeson played the black husband of an abusive white woman, who destroys his promising career as a lawyer (Wikipedia).
  • The New Negro, Alain Locke

    The New Negro, Alain Locke
    The New Negro, published by Alain LeRoy Locke is an anthology of poetry, essays, plays, music and portraits by white and black artists. Locke was a theorist and critic of African-American literature and art. He argued that it was the artist’s responsibility to express his own individuality, rather than the black experience, thus providing something of universal human appeal (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy).
  • I, Too, Sing America, Langston Hughes

    I, Too, Sing America, Langston Hughes
    Reading by Langston Hughes
    Langston Hughes was a poet, novelist and playwright who lived from 1902-1967. He is known for his discerning portrayals of black life in America from the twenties through the sixties and was important in shaping the artistic contributions of the Harlem Renaissance (Poets.org).
  • Sugar Hill

    Sugar Hill
    Part of Washington Heights, these buildings became known as “Sugar Hill” in the late 1920’s, referring to the sweet life they represented. The buildings were home to many Harlem Renaissance celebrities including Cab Calloway, Paul Robeson and A’Lelia Walker. The neighborhood housed prominent black writers, musicians, athletes and politicians (Ephemeral New York).
  • Looking Upward, James Lesesne Wells

    Looking Upward, James Lesesne Wells
    Wells’ print depicts the urban life that he witnessed in Harlem and presents an African American identity based in community and work. His works draw on African art traditions as well as concepts of German Expressionism (Black Artists in the Museum).
  • Passing, Nella Larson

    Passing, Nella Larson
    Preview the novel.
    Nella Larsen’s novel, Passing, is about a light-skinned, black woman married to a racist white man who is unaware of her African American heritage. Larsen became the the first African American to earn a Guggenheim fellowship (Penguin Random House).
  • The Black Christ, Countee Cullen

    The Black Christ, Countee Cullen
    (The Black Christ)
    Countee Cullen's poem draws parallels between the suffering of the crucified Christ and the suffering of African Americans amidst the racial violence of the 1920s (Libraries, University of Missouri).
  • Blackberry Woman, Richmond Barthe

    Blackberry Woman, Richmond Barthe
    The subject is an African American woman balancing a basket on her head. Her frontal, linear form mimics West African sculpture. The title is a reference to Wallace Thurman’s 1929 book, The Blacker the Berry: A Novel of Negro Life, a story of the discrimination against dark-skinned women within the African American community (Smithsonian American Art Museum).
  • Minnie the Moocher, Cab Calloway and his Orchestra

    Minnie the Moocher, Cab Calloway and his Orchestra
    "Minnie the Moocher" was written by Cabell "Cab" Calloway III with jazz music publisher, Irving Mills. It was first recorded in 1931 by Cab Calloway and His Orchestra and became a signature song in that decade. In it, Calloway introduces an abundance of slang terms and demonstrates his characteristic scatting (Songfacts).
    Listen HERE.
  • Couple in Raccoon Coats, James Van der Zee

    Couple in Raccoon Coats, James Van der Zee
    This photo by James Van der Zee exemplifies his goal to portray black people in ways counter to the negative caricatures circulating in his day. His photography challenged popular perceptions of African Americans and proclaimed that the American dream was attainable for black Americans as well as white (Time).
  • It Don't Mean a Thing, Duke Ellington

    It Don't Mean a Thing, Duke Ellington
    Duke Ellington's "It Don't Mean a Thing (If it Ain't Got that Swing)" released in 1932, preceded the Swing Era, but it introduce the word "swing" into popular language. Ellington said that "swing" was "Harlem for rhythm" (Songfacts).
    Video Recording
  • The Negro in an African Setting, Aaron Douglas

    The Negro in an African Setting, Aaron Douglas
    Aaron Douglas’s “Aspects of Negro Life” murals combine African American history with contemporary scenes reflecting the influence of African sculpture, jazz music and modern Cubism. His works portrayed African Americans in a new light (Artland).
  • Black Belt, Archibald J. Motley Jr.

    Black Belt, Archibald J. Motley Jr.
    Motley’s painting depicts a night in the Black Belt, the Bronzeville neighborhood in Chicago noted for its jazz and cabaret clubs. Some scholars suggest the heavyset man with hunched shoulders is a kind of alter ego, conveying the toll of racism in his exhausted appearance (The Art Story).
  • What a Little Moonlight Can Do, Harry M. Woods

    What a Little Moonlight Can Do, Harry M. Woods
    This song was written by Harry M. Woods in 1934 and recorded by Billie Holiday with Teddy Wilson and his orchestra in 1935 (Smithsonian).
    Listen Here.
  • Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston

    Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
    When first published in 1937, this novel about an independent black woman was generally dismissed by male reviewers. Out of print for almost thirty years, it was reissued in paperback by the University of Illinois Press in 1978. Their Eyes Were Watching God has become the most widely read and highly acclaimed novel in the canon of African-American literature (Zora Neale Hurston).
  • Les Fetiches, Lois Mailou Jones

    Les Fetiches, Lois Mailou Jones
    The central African mask suggests a strong human presence. It is an example of Primitivism in the early 20th century in which artists incorporated the aesthetics of non-Western art into their work. “Art historian Holland Carter has called it ‘an emblem of black American self-identity’” (The Art Story).
  • Jazz, Norman Lewis

    Jazz, Norman Lewis
    Norman Lewis’s lithograph shows the importance of jazz and blues in the Harlem Renaissance. He was only 19 when he created this print, yet he skillfully captured the essence of the musicians. Lewis was affected by Alain Locke’s call for the depiction of the black experience in art, as well as by the Museum of Modern Art’s display of African artifacts (National Gallery of Art).
  • Migration Series, Jacob Lawrence

    Migration Series, Jacob Lawrence
    Jacob Lawrence's Migration Series Paintings reflect the movement of African Americans from the poor rural South to the industrialized North (1915–1950s). In this panel, three young girls stand facing a chalkboard, writing numbers. He used geometric shapes and pastel colors. His sparse illustrations conveyed much through minimal means (MoMALearning).
  • Can Fire in the Park, Beauford Delaney

    Can Fire in the Park, Beauford Delaney
    This vivid oil painting displays empathy for the homeless people gathered around a fire in a trashcan at a city park. According to The Art Story, the thick, swirling paint “evokes the social invisibility of the poor and homeless.” Delaney began using a thick impasto in the 1940s to portray urban scenes.