Archibald J. Motley motleyportrait.jpg

“In my painting I have tried to paint the Negro as I have seen him and as I feel him…”-Archibald J. Motley(Extraordinary People of The Harlem Renaissance, 206)

Background Information:
Archibald J. Motley was born October 7, 1891 in New Orleans Louisiana. His father ran a moderately successful merchandise store but had the family had to leave because of racism. The family ended up in Chicago, where his father became a Pullman Porter.

Motley attended the Art Institute of Chicago, paying through school by working odd jobs and getting money from his father. Once he graduated from the institute, he had trouble finding a job and thus worked more odd jobs. Motley had confidence issues, and it took almost five years of positive reactions to his paintings before he actually submitted them to shows. Motley won numerous prizes for his artwork. Once, Motley entered a painting called Syncopation even thoguh his friends advised him not to do so, this is because it depicted street life, something frowned upon by the upper-classes, however, the work was well received and had wonderful reviews. By the time Motley reached 37, he could sustain himself entirely by art, althoguh he was criticized by black leaders for his painting's subject contents such as gambling, most people received the paintings well.
Motley and his wife went to Europe at the onset of the Great Depression, he not being the only 1920s artist over there. It should be noted that Motley was the only artist who did not seek out the legendary Henry Ossawa Tanner, a black artists from the beginning of the century, nor did he go to see other artists such as Palmer Hayden. Motley returned during the Depression, and unlike other black artists, managed to find a steady job and live somewhat comfortably. In 1945 Motley's wife died and he became severely depressed, he did not paint again until 1953 and died in 1981.

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Other forms of art during the 1920s:
American Scene Painting
Art Deco