Motley, Archibald John, Jr.

Motley, Archibald John, Jr.,

1891–1981, African American artist, b. New Orleans, grad. Art Institute of Chicago (1918). He was an important figure in the early Harlem RenaissanceHarlem Renaissance,
term used to describe a flowering of African-American literature and art in the 1920s, mainly in the Harlem district of New York City. During the mass migration of African Americans from the rural agricultural South to the urban industrial North
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, though he spent most of his life in Chicago. Some of his best-known early works include Woman Peeling Apples (1924, Schomburg Center, N.Y.C.) and Mending Socks (1924, Ackland Art Mus., Chapel Hill, N.C.). Of mixed racial heritage, Motley was interested in varying skin tones, which he painted in a series of portraits of African American women titled The Mulatress (1924), The Octoroon Girl (1925), and The Quadroon (1927). During a year in Paris, he portrayed American expatriates partying at local nightclubs in Jockey Club (1929) and Blues (1929). In the 1930s he began depicting the nightlife of the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago, contrasting vivid red, yellow, and pink colors with dark blues and black in such works as Barbecue (1934, Howard Univ. Mus. of Art) and Black Belt (1934, Hampton Univ. Mus.). Trips to Mexico in the 1950s inspired Jose with Serape (1953), Another Mexican Baby (1953), and other paintings. Many of his works are in private collections.
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