William Artis

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William Artis
man at potter's wheel
William Artis at work
BornFebruary 2, 1914
Washington, North Carolina
DiedApril 3, 1977
Alma materArt Students League of New York,
Syracuse University
Known forsculptor

William Ellisworth Artis (February 2, 1914 – April 3, 1977)[1][2] was an African-American sculptor, whose favorite medium was clay. The freedom of modeling gave him a broad range of expression. During the latter part of his life, he began to focus on potting[3].


Born in Washington, North Carolina, he moved to New York as a teen in 1927. Professor Artis died at North Port , Long Island, New York on April 3, 1977[3].


He was a pupil of Augusta Savage and exhibited with the Harmon Foundation. He was featured in the 1930s film A Study of Negro Artists, along with Savage and other artists associated with the Harlem Renaissance, including Richmond Barthé, James Latimer Allen, Palmer Hayden, Aaron Douglas, William Ellisworth Artis, William Ellisworth Artis, Lois Mailou Jones, and Georgette Seabrooke.[4][5]

He taught at the Harlem YMCA after finishing high school, then was involved with Works Progress Administration's artists project.

From 1941 to 1945, he served in the U.S. Army during World War II.[1] After the war, he earned his academic degrees. Artis studied at the Art Students League of New York and Syracuse University, where he worked with Ivan Meštrović. After leaving Syracuse, he taught at Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

In 1945, Artis, with fellow artist Romare Bearden and Selma Burke, were together in the landmark Albany Institute of History and Art exhibit and over the next decade found the black artist making inroads in national exhibits and major galleries.

In 1954 he joined the faculty of Nebraska State Teachers College.[3] He later taught at Chadron State College[6], where from 1956 to 1966 he was Professor of Ceramics, and at Mankato State College, Minnesota, as Professor of Art until ill health forced him to retire in 1975.[2]



  1. ^ a b Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010
  2. ^ a b "Gifted Hands, William Artis", African American Registry.
  3. ^ a b c Heralds of Life: Artis, Bearden and Burke, 4-30 November 1977, by Norman E. Pendergraft, Museum of Art, North Carolina Central University; Evans-Tibbs Collection, Artist file: NC-Central University. National Gallery of Art Library, Washington D.C.
  4. ^ A Study of Negro Artists at Internet Archive.
  5. ^ "A Study of Negro Artists (1937)" at TCM.
  6. ^ Justin Haag, "Artis collection gaining significance", Chadron State College, July 28, 2008.