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 Eldzier Cortor  (1916 - )

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Lived/Active: Illinois/New York      Known for: mod ethnic figure-genre, graphics

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Ad Code: 3
Eldzier Cortor
from Auction House Records.
Woman in an Interior
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
African-American painter and printmaker Eldzier Cortor, a modernist emphasizing the depiction of Black women, was born in Richmond, Virginia in 1916, but moved with his family to Chicago, Illinois when he was one year old. As a child, he wanted to create comic strips, copying Leslie Rogers' "Bungleton Green," his favorite, among others. He attended Englewood High School with future artists Charles White and Charles Sebree. His father did not support his interest in art and Cortor was forced to drop out of school to work.

A member of the "Chicago Renaissance of Black Art" in the 1930s and 1940s, he studied drawing at night at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1936. He also studied at Columbia University in New York City. He was a founding member of the Southside Community Art Center in Chicago. In 1940, he worked with the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in Chicago. He received a Rosenwald Fellowship for study in 1944-1945 at Sea Islands, Georgia. A Guggenheim Fellowship in 1949, enabled Cortor to study in Jamaica, Cuba, and Haiti. He taught at the Centre d'Art, Port-au-Prince, Haiti, from 1949-1951.

After studying diasporan peoples in the Sea Islands, South Carolina, Haiti, Jamaica, and Cuba, Cortor developed an interest in African customs practiced in New World locations, particularly in relation to black female culture. In "Cuban Souvenir", Cortor presents an exoticized black woman whose red dress, red lips, rose hair ornament, and fan evoke the stereotypical notion of Latin female sexuality. His use of the sea shell still life in the foreground recalls the close ties of both African and island cultures to the ocean. Set in the tropics or an urban tenement, Cortor's black women remain sensuous, introspective, and self-contained.

In 1988, Cortor exhibited at the Kenkeleba Gallery, New York City, in the show, "Three Masters: Eldzier Cortor, Hughie Lee-Smith and Archibald John Motley, Jr." In 2002, his "Southern Gate", 1942-43, was one of seven paintings exhibited in "Southern Gate: African American Paintings from the National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina". The title of his painting was applied to the exhibition as a whole.

He is represented in Fern Logan's 2001 book of photographs of Black artists, "The Artist Portrait Series: Images of Contemporary African American Artists". Cortor's work is in the collection of the Museum of the National Center of Afro-American Artists, in Roxbury, Massachusetts.


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Black American Artists

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