Aaron Douglas

This essay has a total of 1155 words and 6 pages.

Aaron Douglas



Aaron Douglas



People may ask, what other than a tornado can come out of Kansas? Well, Aaron Douglas was born of May 26, 1899 in Topeka, Kansas. Aaron Douglas was a "Pioneering Africanist" artist who led the way in using African- oriented imagery in visual art during the Harlem Renaissance of 1919- 1929. His work has been credited as the catalyst for the genre incorporating themes in form and style that affirm the validity of the black consciousness and experience in America.
His parents were Aaron and Elizabeth Douglas. In 1922, he graduated from the University of Nebraska School of Fine Arts in Lincoln. Who thought that this man would rise to meet W.E.B. Du Bois's 1921 challenge, calling for the transforming hand and seeing eye of the artist to lead the way in the search for the African American identity. Yet, after a year of teaching art in Kansas City, Missouri, Douglas moved to New York City's Harlem neighborhood in 1924 and began studying under German artist Winold Reiss. His mentor discouraged Douglas's penchant for traditional realist painting and encouraged him to explore African art for design elements would express racial commitment in his art. The young painter embraced the teachings of Reiss to develop a unique style incorporating African- American and black American subject matter. He soon had captured the attention of the leading black scholars and activists.
About the time of his marriage on June 18, 1924, to Alta Sawyer, Douglas began to create illustrations for the periodicals. Early the following year, one of his illustrations appeared on the front cover of Opportunity magazine, which awarded Douglas its first prize for drawing. Also, in 1925, Douglas's illustrations were published in Alain Looke's survey of the Harlem Renaissance, The New Negro. Publisher Looke called Douglas a "pioneering Africanist," and that stamp of praise and approval for the artist influenced future historians to describe Douglas as "the father of Black American art." His fame quickly spread beyond Harlem, and began to mount painting exhibitions in Chicago and Nashville, among the numerous other cities, and to paint murals and historical narratives interpreting black history and racial pride.
During the mid- 1920's, Douglas was an important illustrator for Crisis, Vanity Fair, Opportunity, Theatre Arts Monthly, Fire and Harlem. In 1927, after illustrating an anthology of verse by black poets, Caroling Dusk, Douglas completed a series of paintings for poet James Weldon Johnson's book of poems, God's Trombones: Seven Negro Sermons in Verse. Douglas's images for the book were inspired by Negro Spirituals, customs of Africans and black history. The series soon to became among the most celebrated of Douglas's work. It defined figures with the language of Synthetic Cubism and borrowed from the lyrical style of Reiss and the forms of African sculpture. Through his drawings for the series, Douglas came close to inventing his own painting style by this combination of elements in his work.
During this time, Douglas collaborated with various poets. It was also his desire to capture the black expression through the use of paint. He spent a lot of time watching patrons of area nightclubs in Harlem. Douglas said that most of his paintings that were captured in these particular nightclubs were mainly inspired through music that was played. According to Douglas, the sounds of the music was heard everywhere and were created mostly during the Harlem Renaissance by well-trained artists. Douglas's work was looked upon by most critics as a breath of fresh air. His work symbo

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