Narratives of African American Art and Identity

Aaron Douglas

The Junk Man, n.d.

Etching on paper

9" x 7.25"

Other Works

Previous Work Next Work

The Junk Man

Like his 1956 watercolor City Scape, Aaron Douglas's etching The Junk Man differs in terms of both style and medium from the monochromatic, Art Deco- and Egyptian-inspired compositions that gained him international recognition during the period of the Harlem Renaissance. Although stylistically different from the compositions such as Aspects of Negro Life, 1934, many of the elements relating to the working-class ideology found in the majority of his Harlem Renaissance works are present in The Junk Man as well.

Douglas's Harlem Renaissance compositions focused on the lives and concerns of everyday African American men and women in America. He believed that depictions of the working class formed the essence of what he described as the "Negro thing" - an idea upon which the Harlem Renaissance was developed. With regard to his opinion on his depiction of the black working class, Douglas recalled, "Yes, we have higher, we have lower and so on, but here [the black working class] is the base of the thing. We all understood that. We all were only one jump ahead of this person that I was trying to set forth here."

The Junk Man is the dignified and sensitive portrayal of a serene and solitary moment in the life of a junk dealer. Like Douglas's stylized, geometric silhouettes, The Junk Man is an anonymous figure whose horse-drawn cart and worn hat serve as reminders of the humble surroundings that most African Americans were still living in or were in the process of emerging from.   T. F.


David Driskell
Related Sites
III. The Black Academy
Related Links

Aaron Douglas biography

Aaron Douglas on the web

Next Artist

Previous Artist Section I Home Next Artist