The Negro in African Setting (1934) by Aaron Douglas

The Negro in African Setting - Aaron Douglas - 1934

Artwork Information

TitleThe Negro in African Setting
ArtistAaron Douglas
Art MovementArt Deco, Synthetic Cubism, Harlem Renaissance
Current LocationArt Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, US

About The Negro in African Setting

The artwork titled “The Negro in African Setting” was created by artist Aaron Douglas in 1934. It is executed in gouache and is classified as a history painting. This piece forms part of the series “Aspects of Negro Life” and reflects the influence of Art Deco, Synthetic Cubism, and the Harlem Renaissance. Currently, the artwork is housed within the Art Institute of Chicago, located in Chicago, Illinois, United States.

The composition of the artwork is defined by a layered interplay of figures and shapes, creating a mosaic of storytelling vignettes. In the foreground, silhouetted figures performing various activities, such as playing instruments and dancing, dominate the space. They seem to be surrounded by stylized forms of vegetation, which could denote their connection to the natural environment. The overarching color palette is a harmonious range of earth tones, subtly transitioning to create depth and dimension. The forms are geometrically abstracted, typical of the Synthetic Cubist influence, while the artistry remains anchored in the illustrative and graphic linear aesthetic of Art Deco. Aaron Douglas’s distinctive style encapsulates both a cultural narrative specific to African heritage and a universal expression of rhythm, movement, and human experience. The use of transparency and overlapping elements imbues the scene with a sense of continuity and interconnectedness, suggesting a rich tapestry of African life and culture as perceived through Douglas’s vision, all while emphasizing the historical significance and resilience of the African American community.

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