Bill Traylor, an African-American from Lowndes County, Alabama, was a self-taught artist who is now considered one of the most important American artists of the 20th century. Traylor was born in slavery and spent most of his life as a tenant farmer after his emancipation. It was not until after 1939, after he moved to Montgomery, Alabama, that Traylor began to paint. At the age of 85, he began to record his memories and observations. From 1939 to 1942, he was homeless and created nearly 1,500 works of art while working on the sidewalks of Montgomery. His work began to receive wider attention in the late 1970s, 30 years after his death.
Traylor made completely original drawings on the found cardboard fragments. He drew pencil sketches and later began to paint colors, including clear silhouettes of people and animals. There are also simple forms of layered abstraction. His paintings depict his experiences and observations of rural and urban life in stripped-down repetitive symbols, shapes and figures. It’s a unique combination of modernism and understated art.
While we revel in his work, you can expect to see more of his masterpieces on DailyArt in the future!
PS Come explore the Harlem Renaissance , a thriving art period important to the history of African American art.
82.6 × 62.2 cm
Smithsonian American Art Museum
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