About us
Artists Archibald J. Motley, Jr.
Archibald J. Motley, Jr. Photo

Archibald J. Motley, Jr.

American Painter

Movement: Harlem Renaissance

Born: October, 7, 1891 - New Orleans, Louisiana

Died: January 16, 1981 - Chicago, Illinois

Archibald J. Motley, Jr. Timeline

Quotes

"I sincerely hope that with the progress the Negro has made, he is deserving to be represented in his true perspective, with dignity, honesty, integrity, intelligence, and understanding."
Archibald J. Motley, Jr.
"The biggest thing I ever wanted to do in art was to paint like the Old Masters."
Archibald J. Motley, Jr.
"...I have tried to paint the Negro as I have seen him, in myself without adding or detracting, just being frankly honest."
Archibald J. Motley, Jr.
"Criticism has had absolutely no effect on my work although I well enjoy and sincerely appreciate the opinions of others."
Archibald J. Motley, Jr.
"I sincerely believe Negro art is some day going to contribute to our culture, our civilization."
Archibald J. Motley, Jr.
"...I think that every picture should tell a story and if it doesn't tell a story then it's not a picture."
Archibald J. Motley, Jr.
"But I never in all my life have I felt that I was a finished artist."
Archibald J. Motley, Jr.
"And if you don't have the intestinal fortitude, in other words, if you don't have the guts to hang in there and meet a lot of - well, I must say a lot of disappointments, a lot of reverses - and I've met them - and then being a poor artist, too, not only being colored but being a poor artist it makes it doubly, doubly hard."
Archibald J. Motley, Jr.

"I feel that my work is peculiarly American; a sincere personal expression of this age and I hope a contribution to society."

Synopsis

Archibald Motley captured the complexities of black, urban America in his colorful street scenes and portraits. Painting during the time of the Harlem Renaissance, Motley infused his genre scenes with the rhythms of jazz and the boisterousness of city life, and his portraits sensitively reveal his sitters' inner lives. His use of color to portray various skin tones as well as night scenes was masterful.

His depictions of modern black life, his compression of space, and his sensitivity to his subjects made him an influential artist, not just among the many students he taught, but for other working artists, including Jacob Lawrence, and for more contemporary artists like Kara Walker and Kerry James Marshall.

Key Ideas

Motley more often cited European Old Masters such as Rembrandt and Hals as his influences, and his painting of light and skin tone reflect his careful study of these artists. His paintings, though, are thoroughly modern with their sense of space and rhythm.
At the time when writers and other artists were portraying African American life in new, positive ways, Motley depicted the complexities and subtleties of racial identity, giving his subjects a voice they had not previously had in art before. Motley's paintings grapple with, sometimes subtly, sometimes overtly, the issues of racial injustice and stereotypes that plague America.
While Motley strove to paint the realities of black life, some of his depictions veer toward caricature and seem to accept the crude stereotypes of African Americans. While some critics remain vexed and ambivalent about this aspect of his work, Motley's playfulness and even sometimes surrealistic tendencies create complexities that elude easy readings.

Biography

Archibald J. Motley, Jr. Photo

Childhood

Archibald J. Motley, Jr. was born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1891 to upper-middle class African American parents; his father was a porter for the Pullman railway cars and his mother was a teacher. His paternal grandmother had been a slave, but now the family enjoyed a high standard of living due to their social class and their light-colored skin (the family background included French and Creole). When Motley was two the family moved to Englewood, a well-to-do and mostly white Chicago suburb.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Archibald J. Motley, Jr. Biography Continues

Influences and Connections

Influences on Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Influenced by Artist
Artists, Friends, Movements
Archibald J. Motley, Jr.
Interactive chart with Archibald J. Motley, Jr.'s main influences, and the people and ideas that the artist influenced in turn.
View Influences Chart

Artists

Edgar DegasEdgar Degas
Rembrandt van RijnRembrandt van Rijn
Peter Paul RubensPeter Paul Rubens
Eugène DelacroixEugène Delacroix
TitianTitian

Personal Contacts

George BellowsGeorge Bellows
William Schwartz
David C. Driskell

Movements

SymbolismSymbolism
FauvismFauvism
ExpressionismExpressionism
ImpressionismImpressionism
CubismCubism

Influences on Artist
Archibald J. Motley, Jr.
Archibald J. Motley, Jr.
Years Worked: 1914 -1972
Influenced by Artist

Artists

Jacob LawrenceJacob Lawrence
Kara WalkerKara Walker
Faith RinggoldFaith Ringgold
Robert Colescott
Kerry James Marshall

Personal Contacts

Romare BeardenRomare Bearden

Movements

Pop ArtPop Art

If you see an error or typo, please:
tell us
Cite this page

Content compiled and written by Kristen Osborne-Bartucca

Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors

" Artist Overview and Analysis". [Internet]. . TheArtStory.org
Content compiled and written by Kristen Osborne-Bartucca
Edited and published by The Art Story Contributors
Available from:
[Accessed ]