Hale Woodruff: Works for Sale, Upcoming Auctions & Past Results

Hale Woodruff

American  •  1900-1980


Best known for his large-scale murals, Hale Woodruff had a profound influence on 20th century American art. Born in Cairo, Illinois in 1900 and raised in Nashville, Woodruff studied art in Indianapolis and at the Art Institute of Chicago before his crucial four-year sojourn in Paris. Financed by an award from the Harmon Foundation, Woodruff, like many black artists at the time, moved to Paris where he immersed himself in the study of both modern and African art. During his four-year sojourn he became part of what he designated the “Negro Colony”, a group of expatriated African American artists and intellectuals including Henry Ossawa Tanner, Augusta Savage, Alain Locke, and Josephine Baker. 

In 1931, Woodruff returned to the United Sates, notably establishing the art department at Atlanta University in the depths of the Depression.Seeking to express his heritage and inspired by European Modernism, especially Post-Impressionism and Cubism, Woodruff began creating socially-aware art. His apprenticeship with Diego Rivera in Mexico in 1936 paved the way for his acclaimed murals, which Roberta Smith lauded as ” the greatest to emerge from the American Social Realist and mural movements of the 1930s and ’40s.”

Both as artist, educator and mentor to artists such as Romare Bearden and Jacob Lawrence, Woodruff paved the way for generations of African American artists.


  • Woodruff's art can be found in the Art Institute of Chicago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Smithsonian American Art Musuem, among others. 

  • Woodruff won the 1926 Bronze medal in the Harmon Foundation’s annual competition. 

“About fifteen years had passed since I'd left the South and gone to Indiana and then to Paris. I realized that here was my country again.”

Past Lots