Elizabeth Catlett

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Elizabeth Catlett
Head of a Woman
Black crayon and brush and black ink on paper.
12 3/4 x 9 1/4 inches (32.4 x 23.5 cm)
Purchase on the Manley Family Fund.
Estate of the artist (Conner-Rosenkranz, LLC); from whom acquired by the Morgan.

Catlett was a renowned sculptor and printmaker who devoted her career to making art "that Black people would relate to," as she declared. Her representations of women combine socially charged subjects with a modernist style. After studying at Howard University and the University of Iowa--where one of her mentors was the regionalist painter Grant Wood--she lived in Chicago and New York before settling in Mexico in 1946. That year, she created a series of linocuts entitled The Black Woman that celebrate famous African-American women, such as Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman, and that also give voice to the struggles and achievements of ordinary women. Head of a Woman is a rare drawing related to this series. It is a study for one of the two figures in the print called "Special Houses," which addresses the issue of housing segregation. The subject had autobiographical resonance for Catlett: When she was at Iowa University, Black students were not allowed in the dormitories.