A Study of Negro Artists

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

A Study of Negro Artists is a silent film in black and white on four reels that was created in the 1930s to highlight the development of African-American fine arts. The film features many influential black artists associated with the Harlem Renaissance, including Richmond Barthé, James Latimer Allen, Palmer Hayden, Aaron Douglas, William Ellisworth Artis, Malvin Gray Johnson, Augusta Savage, Lois Mailou Jones, and Georgette Seabrooke.[1][2] The 15-minute motion picture was made by Jules V. D. Bucher.[3]

A Study of Negro Artists


The project was funded by the Harmon Foundation and screened at the New York Public Library to raise funds to save the Harlem Art Workshop.[4] In creating A Study of Negro Artists, the Harmon Foundation hoped to educate the American public about the rich African-American arts scene developing in New York City.[5]


Richmond Barthé at work in his studio in A Study of Negro Artists.

The film is an example of the New Negro Arts movement associated with the Harlem Renaissance. It also exemplifies the tendency to segregate artistic achievement according to perceived racial differences.[6]

Art critic John Ott has suggested that efforts by the Harmon Foundation of this kind "eclipses African American artistic endeavors with images of black menial employment." According to Ott, the film implies that artistic work is a leisure activity, but synonymous with labor by focusing attention on the working bodies of the featured artists, rather than the products of their work. Inter-titles further this suggestion:[7]

  • "Until recognition comes, the artist seeks a living wherever he can."
  • "The leisure thus gained leaves him free to work again for fame and recognition,"
  • "The Negro artist today must work with his hands to earn a living; his art is but a spare‐time activity."[8]


  1. ^ A Study of Negro Artists at Internet Archive.
  2. ^ "A Study of Negro Artists (1937)" at TCM.
  3. ^ Horak, Jan-Christopher, ed. (1995). Lovers of Cinema: The First American Film Avant-garde, 1919–1945. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. p. 364. ISBN 978-0299146801.
  4. ^ Calo, Mary Ann (2007). Distinction and Denial: Race, Nation, and the Critical Construction of the African American Artist, 1920–40. Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan Press. p. 90. ISBN 978-0472032303.
  5. ^ Mjagkij, Nina, ed. (2001). Organizing Black America: An Encyclopedia of African American Associations. New York, NY: Garland Publ. p. 224. ISBN 978-0815323099.
  6. ^ Barsam, Richard M. (1995). Nonfiction Film: A Critical History (rev. and expanded ed.). Bloomington: Indiana University Press. p. 138. ISBN 978-0253207067.
  7. ^ Ott, John (2008). "Labored Stereotypes: Palmer Hayden's the Janitor Who Paints" (PDF). American Art, Vol. 22, No. 1. Archived from the original (PDF) on November 6, 2016.
  8. ^ Morrow, Alex, "Journal Article" Cornish Journal, December 14, 2001.

External links[edit]