Icarus

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  • Provenance

    Bertha Schaefer, New York
    Private Collection, Chicago

  • Catalogue Essay

    HALE WOODRUFF
    Born 1900, Cairo, IL
    Died 1980, New York City, NY

    1927, Académie Scandinave and the Académie Moderne

    Selected honors: Bronze medal in the Harmon Foundation’s annual competition (1926)
    Selected museum exhibitions and performances: Indianapolis Museum of Art, Indianapolis; Talladega College, Alabama
    Selected public collections: Art Institute of Chicago, Illinois; Baltimore Museum of Art, Maryland; High Museum of Art, Atlanta; Howard University Gallery, Washington, DC; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; and the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York

    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. As Woodruff recalled in a 1968 oral history interview with Al Murray, “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.” 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. “There was no such thing as black art or Negro art….To me, the only true black art is African art,” Woodruff was quoted explaining in a in a 1979 New York Times article, adding how nowadays “the so-called black artist is in full swing, and he is trying to develop what is called a black esthetic. But there are many very talented young black artists today who don't think that way. So my position is whatever your color, you produce the style, the work of art, and they will recognize you for it.”

  • Artist Bio

    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.

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4

Icarus

signed "H. Woodruff" lower left; further signed and titled ""ICARUS" H. WOODRUFF "ICARUS"" on the reverse of the frame
oil on canvas
50 x 44 1/2 in. (127 x 113 cm.)
Executed in 1962.

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AMERICAN AFRICAN AMERICAN

New York Selling Exhibition 10 January - 8 February 2019