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
Date1934
Mediumgouache
Art MovementArt Deco, Synthetic Cubism, Harlem Renaissance
Current LocationArt Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL, US
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About The Negro in African Setting

Aaron Douglas’s “Aspects of Negro Life” series features four murals with powerful depictions of African American history. The first mural, titled “The Negro in an African Setting,” sets the tone for the rest of the series. In this mural, Douglas combines Cubism-inspired motifs with traditional African cultural themes to create a stunning and unique work of art. The painting depicts four stages of African American history, from enslavement to the Great Migration to Harlem. This portrayal demonstrates how Black people have been shaped by their environment and circumstances throughout their history. Through masterful brushwork and bold lines, Douglas emphasizes key details in “The Negro in an African Setting.” For example, he highlights the resilience and strength of Black people as they navigate oppression and discrimination. Moreover, he presents alternate forms of beauty that deviate from Western conventions by incorporating various symbols prominent in West Africa. This mural eventually found a permanent home at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture at The New York Public Library. Through “The Negro in an African Setting,” Aaron Douglas offers a uniquely Afrocentric perspective on Black lives while keeping his own artistic style intact.

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