Charles Wilbert White (1918 - 1979)

Lot 26: CHARLES WHITE (1918 - 1979) Frederick Douglass Lives Again (The Ghost of Frederick Douglass).

Swann Auction Galleries

October 7, 2008
New York, NY, US

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Description: CHARLES WHITE (1918 - 1979)
Frederick Douglass Lives Again (The Ghost of Frederick Douglass).

Pen and ink over pencil on illustration board, 1949. 508x762 mm; 20x30 inches. Signed and dated in ink, lower left. Gedeon D54.

Provenance: ACA Gallery, New York; private collection, New York, 1950; private collection, Philadelphia, 1988. This drawing's location was recorded as unknown in 1980 at the time of Lucinda Gedeon's catalogue raisonné.

A close variant of this drawing is in the collection of the New Jersey State Museum, Trenton, NJ. The same size and year, Frederick Douglass has in the lower left a tighter, smaller group of figures, all men in suits, likely a group of lawyers involved in Jim Crow cases.

Exhibited: ACA Gallery, New York, February 12 - 25, 1950.

Illustrated: Daily Worker, New York, Sunday, February 12, 1950; Sidney Finkelstein, Charles White: Ein Künstler Amerikas, pl. 16; Jewish Currents, February 1963, cover.

An extraordinary example of Charles White's early drawing, Frederick Douglass Lives Again is one of a series of the pen and ink drawings recording the celebrated trials of African-Americans victimized during the Jim Crow era. White shows a mastery of cross-hatching in each expressive face of this dynamic composition. The towering figure of Douglass and the compressed space reflect techniques used in his mural painting, particularly his The Contribution of the Negro to Democracy in American at Hampton University, 1933. White was also translating the African-American experience through the earlier model of the great Mexican muralists Orozco, Rivera and Siqueiros.

In Frederick Douglass Lives Again, White continues his depiction of ordinary people on a heroic scale. Along with The Trenton Six, The Ingram Case and Open Gate (Liberation), White chronicled the legal plights of African-Americans, and the greater cause for justice and equality. White was particularly politically active at this point in his career. Reproductions of these drawings appeared in portfolios published by the Workshop for Graphic Art in New York, and in such progressive periodicals as The Daily Worker. White had his first exhibition at ACA Gallery in 1947, and was now regularly exhibiting in New York with other socially and politically conscious artists such as Philip Evergood, William Gropper and Robert Gwathmey.
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