III

Narratives of African American Art and Identity

Elizabeth Catlett

Harriet, 1975

Linocut on paper

12.25" x 10"


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Harriet

© Elizabeth Catlett
Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY


As an artist/educator, Elizabeth Catlett was a highly influential teacher who was herself a beneficiary of the black academy. As a student at Howard University in the early 1930s, Catlett was influenced by Loïs Mailou Jones, James V. Herring, and James A. Porter, three of the founders of the black academic tradition in the arts. Catlett went on to hold teaching positions at Dillard University, in New Orleans; Hampton Institute, in Virginia; and the George Washington Carver School, in Harlem. As a member of the Taller de Gràfica Popular in Mexico City, Catlett worked collectively with other artists in developing the art of the socially relevant print. By 1956, having established herself as an artist and educator, Elizabeth Catlett became the first female professor to head the sculpture department at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

Elizabeth Catlett portrayed Harriet Tubman in print three times between 1946 and 1975. A monumental character in the history of black women in America, Tubman played a central role in the fight against slavery and is an icon of strength and leadership. Catlett's 1975 print Harriet portrays a dynamic Tubman in the act of directing a group of fleeing slaves toward freedom and demonstrates Catlett's commitment to the struggles of black women.   A. L. C.

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