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Nightlife

Painting of a crowded bar scene where African American people dance and drink together, some sitting at the bar, some at small tables, and many on the dance floor.
© Valerie Gerrard Browne / Chicago History Museum / Bridgeman Images

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  • Painting of a crowded bar scene where African American people dance and drink together, some sitting at the bar, some at small tables, and many on the dance floor.

Date:

1943

Artist:

Archibald John Motley Jr.
American, 1891–1981

About this artwork

A palpable energy and sense of movement enliven Nightlife, Archibald Motley’s portrayal of a crowded cabaret in the South Side neighborhood of Bronzeville in Chicago. With stylized figures, an array of diagonal lines, and heightened colors keyed to shades of magenta and violet, the artist captured the exuberance of city dwellers out on the town. Motley created a network of gestures and glances among the people, drawing attention to the various social interactions that animate the scene.

The composition is an exploration of artificial lighting. Motley was inspired, in part, to paint Nightlife after having seen Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks (1942.51), which had entered the Art Institute’s collection the prior year.

Status

On loan to National Gallery of Art in Washington for Afro-Atlantic Histories

Department

Arts of the Americas

Artist

Archibald John Motley Jr.

Title

Nightlife

Place

Chicago (Object made in)

Date

1943

Medium

Oil on canvas

Inscriptions

Signed and dated lower right: A. J. MOTLEY / 1943

Dimensions

91.4 × 121.3 cm (36 × 47 3/4 in.)

Credit Line

Purchased with funds provided by Mr. and Mrs. Marshall Field, Jack and Sandra Guthman, Ben W. Heineman, Ruth Horwich, Lewis and Susan Manilow, Beatrice C. Mayer, Charles A. Meyer, John D. Nichols, and Mr. and Mrs. E.B. Smith Jr.; James W. Alsdorf Memorial Fund; Goodman Endowment

Reference Number

1992.89

Copyright

© Valerie Gerrard Browne / Chicago History Museum / Bridgeman Images

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.

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