Hale Woodruff Abstract
Hale Woodruff (1900-1980)
Untitled Abstract, c. 1958
oil on canvas
47 x 32 inches
Hale Woodruff began his career studying at the John Herron Institute in Indianapolis. He had enjoyed some degree of success and exhibited frequently in Indianapolis and in Chicago by the time he won a Harmon Foundation prize in 1926. This award financed a trip to Paris. Woodruff was deeply influenced by the European modernists, especially Cézanne. He spent a great deal of time with the poet Countee Cullen and painter Palmer Hayden while in Paris. Cullen was there on a Guggenheim Fellowship and Hayden, a Harmon Foundation gold medal prize he won the year previously. Woodruff was encouraged to start a collection of African art by Alain Locke, who accompanied him to the Paris flea markets.
In 1931, Dr. John Hope recruited Woodruff to teach fine art to undergraduates from Spelman College and Morehouse College at the newly established Atlanta University. It was during the 1930’s that Woodruff’s individual style began to take shape. His work shifted from provincial landscapes and figure studies to social realist scenes and stylized landscapes.
In 1936, Woodruff received a grant that allowed him to assist Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. His work with Rivera and support from the Federal Arts Project compelled him to undertake his famous Amistad murals for Talladega College, Alabama, which were installed in 1939.
In 1943, Woodruff was awarded a Rosenwald Fellowship which gave him the opportunity to work in New York City for two years. When he arrived in New York, regionalist and social realist themes were being challenged by abstract expressionism. Woodruff returned to teach in Atlanta, but found the excitement he experienced in New York too hard to resist, and subsequently, accepted a teaching position at New York University (1946).
Woodruff had begun experimenting with purely abstract compositions by the mid 1940s, and his non-abstract subjects became increasingly abstracted. He became more interested in movement, which was almost entirely absent in earlier works. He learned from the abstract expressionists that “color and brushwork had meaning in themselves” (REF: Corrine Jennings’ essay in A Shared Heritage, Art by Four African Americans, Indianapolis Museum of Art, 1996).
In the mid 1960’s, Woodruff co-founded Spiral, with Romare Bearden, Charles Alston, and Norman Lewis in order to explore their common cultural experiences as black artists . His last major exhibition in his lifetime was presented by the Studio Museum in Harlem, 1979 . Woodruff’s work may be found in the collections of Atlanta University, Spelman College, New York University, the Library of Congress, and the Harmon Foundation.
Provenance:Private collection, Texas
Generally good condition. Unlined. No holes, tears, or abrasions. No retouch. Framed. Some visible craqueleure in areas of heavy impasto, but the paint layer is completely stable.
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