III

Narratives of African American Art and Identity

Roy DeCarava

Portrait of Paul Robeson, 1950

Black-and-white photograph

11" x 8"


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Portrait of Paul Robeson

Employing the dramatic properties of shadow and dark tonalities, elements that constitute his signature style, Roy DeCarava creates a moody portrayal of one of the most luminous figures of the Harlem Renaissance, Paul Robeson. DeCarava's melancholy Robeson in an austere interior is a far different characterization from that of the robust, almost mythical figure who was America's leading black actor of the 1920s and 1930s. This 1950 photograph of Robeson typifies DeCarava's expressionistic view of postwar Harlem. From Harlem notables to the man on the street, DeCarava's lens does more than document; it orchestrates an interplay of tone and form that results in an aestheticized journey through one of the most compelling strands of African American culture.   A. L. C.

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