January 10, 1916 |
Tidewater, Virginia, United States
|Occupation||Artist and printmaker|
Eldzier Cortor (born January 10, 1916) is an African-American artist and printmaker. His work typically features elongated nude figures in intimate settings, influenced by both traditional African art and European surrealism.
Life and career
Cortor was born in Tidewater, Virginia, to John and Ophelia Cortor. His family moved to Chicago when Cortor was about a year old, eventually settling in that city's South Side, where Cortor attended Englewood High School. Fellow students at Englewood included the African-American artists Charles Wilbert White and Margaret Burroughs. He attended the Art Institute of Chicago, gaining a degree in 1936. In 1940 he worked with the Works Progress Administration (WPA), where he drew scenes of Depression-era Bronzeville, a neighborhood on Chicago's South Side. In 1949, Cortor studied in Jamaica, Cuba, and Haiti on a Guggenheim Fellowship, and taught at the Centre d'Art in Port-au-Prince from 1949–1951.
Studying the African sculptures at an exhibit at the Field Museum transformed his work. "That was the most important influence in all my work, for to this day you will find in my handling of the human figure that clylindrical and lyrical quality I was taught...to appreciate in African art."
Cortor was one of the first African-American artists to make African-American women his dominant theme, explaining, "the Black woman represents the Black race, continuance of life." His treatment of women has been criticised, for instance in a 1985 article in Art, which described the figure in Southern Gate (1942–43) as, "Stripped of integrity and reduced to a mere object…" According to Adrienne Childs, Cortor’s Cuban Souvenir "presents an exoticized black woman whose red dress, red lips…evoke the stereotypical notion of the Latin female sexuality.” (Childs 1998: 122).
Exhibitions and collections
Cortor exhibited in the 1938 interracial show "An Exhibition in Defense of Peace and Democracy", which was sponsored by the Chicago Artists' Group. In 1940 he was one of the young artists exhibited at "The Exhibition of the Art of the American Negro" in Chicago. He also contributed to the 1967 City College of New York exhibition "The Evolution of Afro-American Artists: 1800 - 1950". In 1976 his painting Interior was included in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art exhibition "Two Centuries of Black American Art", curated by David Driskell, which toured the U.S in 1977. The 1988 group exhibition "Three Masters", at New York's Kenkeleba Gallery, featured Cortor's work alongside that of Hughie Lee-Smith and Archibald Motley. Michael Brenson, in The New York Times review of the show, expressed a preference for Cortor's still-life paintings, rather than his paintings of people. The solo show "Eldzier Cortor: Master Printmaker" was exhibited at the Boston Psychoanalytic Society and Institute in 2002. In 2010 his works were included in an exhibition at the Library of Congress, and a selection of his works on paper exhibited at the Indiana University Art Museum.In 2013 Cortor's prints will be featured in an exhibition at the San Antonio Museum of Art 
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- Ashyia N. Henderson, Ralph G. Zerbonia, Contemporary Black Biography, Volume 42, Gale Research Inc., 2004, p44.
- Fifty years of Robert Blackburn's printmaking workshop
- "Black Spirit: Works on Paper by Eldzier Cortor", Indiana University website.
- Howard University collection website
- Bearden, Romare. A History of African-American Artists: From 1792 to the Present. New York: Pantheon Books, 1993.
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- Trachtenburg, Alan. 1989. Reading American Photographs: Images as History; Matthew Brady to Walker Evans. New York, New York: Hill and Wang, A Division of Farrar, Stratus, and Giroux.
- Various Essayists. 1985. Since the Harlem Renaissance: 50 Years of Afro American Art. Lewisburg, PA. The Center Gallery of Bucknell University.
- Smithsonian: The National Portrait Gallery
- Matt Blacker, Black Spirit: Works on Paper by Eldzier Cortor, Indiana University, 2006.
- Listing from Ask Art
- Entry from negroartist.com