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.
On loan to National Gallery of Art in Washington for Afro-Atlantic Histories
- Arts of the Americas
- Archibald John Motley Jr.
- Chicago (Object made in)
- Oil on canvas
- Signed and dated lower right: A. J. MOTLEY / 1943
- 91.4 × 121.3 cm (36 × 47 3/4 in.)
- 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
- © Valerie Gerrard Browne / Chicago History Museum / Bridgeman Images