About this artwork
Chicagoan Archibald Motley attended the School of the Art Institute at a time when many prominent art academies denied entrance to African American students. His affiliation with the school was thus of great significance to him. Around 1920, as a recent graduate, he painted a self-portrait meant to introduce him as a poised young artist, elegantly presenting himself in a dark suit jacket, crisp white shirt, and a dark tie accented by a diamond horseshoe pin. Furthermore, Motley painted this work following race riots in July 1919, which had heightened tensions in Chicago. The violence convinced him that he should use his art to influence perceptions of African Americans in a positive manner. This sophisticated self-portrait is thus an extraordinary declaration of his goals and ambitions.
- Archibald John Motley Jr.
- c. 1920
- Oil on canvas
- Signed u.l: "A. J. MOTLEY JR."
- 76.3 × 56 cm (30 1/8 × 22 1/8 in.)
- Through prior acquisitions of Friends of American Art Collection; through prior bequest of Marguerita S. Ritman
- © Valerie Gerrard Browne / Chicago History Museum / Bridgeman Images