not but nothing other: African-American Portrayals, 1930s to Today

James A. Porter (1905-1970)
Woman Holding a Jug, 1930

Made three years after his graduation from Howard University, Woman Holding a Jug is indicative of Porter's tendency to draw from his academic training in both form and content. The loosely painted foliage of the wallpaper behind the seated woman contrasts with her defined features, robust torso, and strongly modeled fingers. Early paintings like this merge three-dimensional modeling of the body with areas—such as the wallpaper or the mouth of the jug—that emphasize the flatness of the canvas support. During the 1930s, while many Black art historians and artists were prioritizing connections with an African ancestral homeland, Porter championed integration into the existing art historical canon.

In 1933, this painting won the Schomburg Portrait Prize, an award given by the Harmon Foundation, an organization founded by a White philanthropist in the previous decade to recognize African American achievements in a variety fields, especially the arts.

Click here to hear Marsha Coulton talk about this work.

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