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Two American Negro Painters - Black Orpheus

Article relating to a publication
Published by: Black Orpheus
Number of pages: 3

image of Two American Negro Painters - Black Orpheus

Three page feature, on African-American artists Jacob Lawrence and William H. Johnson, that appeared in Black Orpheus, a ‘Journal of African and Afr-American Literature.’ This was issue No. 11 of Black Orpheus. Though no date is given, the issue was likely to have been published circa 1960. Black Orpheus was a very important journal , one of a number of key initiatives with which Ulli Beier was associated. Published by the General Publications Section Ministry of Education, Ibadan, the editors (in this issue) were given as Ezekiel Mphahlele, Wole Soyinka and Ulli Beier.

Written by Beier, the text was divided into two short essays on Lawrence and Johnson. The text was accompanied by 8 pages of images dedicated to each of the two artists, 16 pages/images in total, though the pages are not numbered. From the essay on Lawrence: “Nearly all his paintings are about negroes. They are not propaganda pictures, however, because Lawrence is not a militant racist. Many of his pictures are deeply moving, but in the words of Aline B. Saarinen “he sees the negroe’s struggle for liberty and freedom as part of the the (sic) struggle of all men to achieve human dignity.”” From the essay on Johnson: “William H. Johnson has been described by some writers as an American “Primitive” painter. This is true up to a point : Johnson uses the simplified formula of children’s art - but he does not use it naively. Johnson is a trained painter who deliberately and self consciously choses (sic) this approach because he feels it helps him to express his ideas best. Hist (sic) relationship to naive art is similar to the relationship of the expressionist to African sculpture. He borrows the forms in order to express new ideas.”

The images accompanying the text were all monochromatic and were “made available by the HARMON FOUNDATION”

From time to time, Black Orpheus featured items on artists, including the likes of F N Souza.

Related people

»  William H. Johnson

Born, 1901. Died, 1970

»  Jacob Lawrence

Born, 1917 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Died, 2000