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Elizabeth Catlett

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Links Together


Crusaders for Justice

Door of Justice

Negro Es Bello

Children with Flowers

New Generation


For My People Suite --
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For My People Suite --
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For My People Suite --
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Known for her abstract sculpture in bronze and marble as well as prints and paintings, particularly depicting the female figure, Elizabeth Catlett is unique for distilling African American, Native American, and Mexican art in her work.

Catlett was born in Washington, DC, and later became a Mexican citizen, residing in Cuernavaca Morelos, Mexico. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Howard University in Washington DC, where there was much discussion about whether or not black artists should depict their own heritage or embrace European modernism.

She earned a Master of Fine Arts degree in 1940 from the University of Iowa, where she had gone to study with Grant Wood, regionalist painter. His teaching dictum was "paint what you know best," and this set her on the path of dealing with her own background. In 1940, her painting "Mother and Child," depicting African-American figures, won her much recognition. She also studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Art Students League in New York City.

From 1944 to 1946, she taught at the George Washington Carver School, an alternative community school in Harlem that provided instruction for working men and women of the city. From her experiences with these people, she did a series of paintings, prints, and sculptures with the theme "I Am a Negro Woman."

In 1946, she traveled to Mexico and became interested in the Mexican working classes. In 1947, she settled permanently in Mexico, where she married artist Francisco Mora. From 1958 to 1973, she was head of the department and professor of sculpture at the National School of Fine Arts Mexico.

There she also did much printmaking, which she found an affordable medium for reaching the masses of people, and produced images of African-American and Mexican working-class women.

-- Butler Institute of American Art

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