Catlett, Elizabeth – African American artist

Elizabeth Catlett (American, born 1919)

Highly regarded as a sculptor, painter, printmaker and teacher, Catlett has been a major force in the African-American and Mexican art communities. Over her long career, she has used her considerable talent and skill in championing the cause of women, minorities and working people. Born in Washington, DC, she was the child of two teachers. She studied art at Howard University, earning a Bachelor’s Degree and then continued her studies at the University of Iowa, where she was the first woman of African-American descent to earn a Masters Degree. She was deeply influenced by her teacher there, Grant Wood, who encouraged his students to look to the subjects they knew best for inspiration. In her case, she focused on her racial heritage and women’s issues. While her art exposes the harsh realities of life for the African-Amerian woman, it does so with tenderness and grace.

Catlett has spent much of her adult life in Mexico. She received a Rosenwald Fellowship to study there in 1946 and developed a working relationship with Diego Rivera, David Siqueiros and Francisco Mora, whom she later married. She became the first woman professor of sculpture and later Chair of the Department of Sculpture at the National School of Fine Arts Mexico.

Information courtesy of Sotheby’s, September 2008.

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