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 William McKnight Farrow  (1885 - 1967)

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Lived/Active: Illinois/Ohio      Known for: portrait, landscape, commercial art

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Ad Code: 3
William McKnight Farrow
from Auction House Records.
"Young Woman with Flowers"
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
A Black-American painter, graphic artist, curator and designer as well as educator, William Farrow had a distinguished career in Chicago in the early 20th century. His portrait of "Paul Laurence Dunbar" is in the National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington DC.

Farrow was born in Dayton, Ohio, attended highschool in Indianapolis, Indiana from 1903 to 1904, and there was influenced by artist William Edouard Scott who encouraged him to enroll at the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1908, Farrow moved to Chicago and attended the Institute from 1908 to 1918. From 1917 to 1945, he was on the staff there, first as head of the Printing Department and then as Assistant Curator of exhibitions. He also managed the collection of Egyptian art.

He worked hard to involve Black-American artists in the cultural life of Chicago by creating exhibition opportunities and encouraging art appreciation among the populace. He founded the Chicago Art League in 1923, and this organization held annual exhibitions at the Wabash Avenue YMCA in Bronzeville. He also wrote art reviews for the "Chicago Defender", a black weekly newspaper.

Farrow had a reputation for his skills with graphic art and commercial art, a subject he taught from 1926 to 1948 at the Carl Schurz High School. He was fired from that job when school officials, "who assumed Farrow was white---were told of a profile of the artist that appeared in the "Pittsburgh Courier", an African-American newspaper." (Kennedy 110).

Memberships included the Society for Sanity in Art and the Chicago Art League. He exhibited widely in the Chicago area including at the Art institute and the American Negro Expo of 1940. He also had a solo exhibition at the New York Public Library in 1940. His work is in the New York Public Library , at Fort Huachuca in Arizona and in many schools and institutions in the Chicago area including the Stewart Community House, Roosevelt High School and Provident Hospital.

Farrow wrote several books on Commercial Art: "Easy Steps to Commercial Art", 1931; "Practical Use of Color", 1933; and "Figure Drawing and Instruction", 1935.

Elizabeth Kennedy, "Chicago Modern"
Peter Falk, "Who Was Who in American Art"

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