This lesson is designed to introduce students to the life and work of one of the foremost African American painters of the mid-twentieth century, Eldzier Cortor.
One of the more promiment parts of Cortor's legacy was his incorporation and depictions of African American women as a dominant theme in his artworks. In an art world dominanted by images of white women, with white standards of beauty and European-centric narratives of art, Cortor was a rebel in that he choose to highlight Black beauty and the societal realities of being African American in the mid-twentieth century.
"The Black woman represents the Black race. She is the Black Spirit; she conveys a feeling of eternity, and the continuance of life." - Eldzier Cortor
In November of 2015, Cortor passed away at the age of 99. He continued to paint undil the day he died. His legacy lives on today as demand for his work has grown in recent years, as many African American artists have seen a surge of interest, with museums moving away from a Eurocentric view of American art and embracing diversity in artists and social narratives.
Using this Resource
This lesson is recommended for students studying art history, African American history, anthropoloyg, sociology, social studies, social justice.
The objects in this lesson are just a beginning. For sample related classroom activities, download the PDFs available under Related Resources. We encourage you to explore the Museum's online collection through this web resource—or even better, to visit the Museum and walk through the physical galleries—to look for other objects that will provide further insights into the relationship between words and images.