Untitled Abstract

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  • Provenance

    The Charles Alston Estate
    Private Collection, Chicago

  • Catalogue Essay

    CHARLES ALSTON
    Born 1907, Charlotte, NC
    Died 1977, New York, NY

    1929 BA, Columbia University, New York, NY
    1931 MA, Columbia University Teachers College, New York, NY

    Selected honors: Trustee of the Kennedy Center (1967); Member of the New York City Arts Commission (1970)
    Selected museum exhibitions and performances: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Atlanta University Center, GA; Art Students League, New York; Studio Museum in Harlem, New York
    Selected public collections: Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit; Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; Museum of Natural History, New York; The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York

    Harlem Renaissance artist Charles Alston has become known as a trailblazing artist who defied conventions and paved the way for greater recognition of African American artists. In 1935, having founded the Harlem Artist’s Guild, he became the first African-American supervisor to work for the WPA's Federal Art Project (FAP) in New York. He was the first black instructor at both the Arts Student League and the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1959 and 1956 respectively. In 1968, he received a presidential appointment from Lyndon Johnson to the National Council of Culture and the Arts. A year later, he was appointed to the New York City Art Commission. In 1990, Alston's portrait sculpture of Martin Luther King, Jr. became the first image of an African American displayed at the White House.

    Alston left an important mark on art history, equally as artist, arts educator, and activist who notably served as a central influence on Jacob Lawrence. Refusing to adhere to any stylistic conventions, Alston pursued both figurative and abstract painting simultaneously. After making a name for himself with his portraits and large-scale murals in the 1940s, Alston became known for his socio-politically charged artworks responding to the Civil Rights era that explored themes such as inequality and race relations in the United States. Along with Romare Bearden and Hale Woodruff, Alston co-founded the collective Spiral in 1963 for artists “who addressed how Black artists should relate to American society in time of segregation”.

    As fellow Harlem Renaissance artist Romare Bearden described Alston, he was “one of the most versatile artists whose enormous skill led him to a diversity of styles… and a voice in the development of African American art who never doubted the excellence of all people's sensitivity and creative ability. During his long professional career, Alston significantly enriched the cultural life of Harlem. In a profound sense, he was a man who built bridges between Black artists in varying fields, and between other Americans.”

  • Artist Bio

    Charles Alston

    American • 1907 - 1977

    Harlem Renaissance artist Charles Alston has become known as a trailblazing artist who defied conventions and paved the way for greater recognition of African American artists. In 1935, having founded the Harlem Artist's Guild, he became the first African-American supervisor to work for the WPA's Federal Art Project (FAP) in New York. He was the first black instructor at both the Arts Student League and the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1959 and 1956 respectively. In 1968, he received a presidential appointment from Lyndon Johnson to the National Council of Culture and the Arts. A year later, he was appointed to the New York City Art Commission. In 1990, Alston's portrait sculpture of Martin Luther King, Jr. became the first image of an African American displayed at the White House.

    Alston left an important mark on art history, equally as artist, arts educator and activist who notably served as a central influence on Jacob Lawrence. Refusing to adhere to any stylistic conventions, Alston pursued both figurative and abstract painting simultaneously. After making a name for himself with his portraits and large-scale murals in the 1940s, Alston became known for his socio-politically charged artworks responding to the Civil Rights era that explored themes such as inequality and race relations in the United States. Along with Romare Bearden and Hale Woodruff, Alston co-founded the collective Spiral in 1963 for artists "who addressed how Black artists should relate to American society in time of segregation."

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1

Untitled Abstract

signed and dated "Alston '51" lower right
oil on canvas
30 x 40 in. (76.2 x 101.6 cm.)
Executed in 1951.

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AMERICAN AFRICAN AMERICAN

New York Selling Exhibition 10 January - 8 February 2019