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Archibald Motley Jr. and Racial ReinventionThe Old Negro in New Negro Art$
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Phoebe Wolfskill

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780252041143

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.5622/illinois/9780252041143.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM ILLINOIS SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.illinois.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Illinois University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in ISO for personal use.date: 28 February 2021

The Art of Assimilation

The Art of Assimilation

(p.29) 2 The Art of Assimilation
Archibald Motley Jr. and Racial Reinvention

Phoebe Wolfskill

University of Illinois Press

Chapter 2 examines Motley’s conscientious placement of himself within Western traditions of art. Contextualizing the artist’s training at the Art Institute of Chicago, the chapter considers Motley’s early meditations on the role of the black artist, which differed in many ways from how the artist was eventually historicized. Analyzing three significant compositions spanning an almost twenty-year period, the chapter investigates Motley’s approach to citing and revising canonical works of art as a means of situating himself as a Western, and not just Negro, artistic master. Motley’s citations of recognized works of art allow black figures to function as symbols of beauty (albeit limited by Western constructions of the concept), timelessness, history, class, labor, and leisure within an increasingly diverse urban environment, while also exhibiting the artist’s aptitude for formal play and experimentation.

Keywords:   assimilation, old masters, canonical, canon, western art, traditions, modernism, Dutch, Whistler, Seurat

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