Sudduth, Jimmie Lee – American Folk Artist

Jimmie Lee Sudduth (1910 to 2007)

Sudduth, a leader in the folk art movement, is best known for his use of clay, mud and organic materials in his mixed media paintings. After discovering as a child that clay and syrup were mediums that withstood the elements, Sudduth began to make art.

Among the materials that Sudduth employed to provide texture and color were charcoal, chalk, coffee grounds, sand, pine needles, and sugar. He then set the mixture with molasses or syrup. He often depicted parts of everyday life in Alabama, with some of his favorite subjects being people, animals, architectural images and birds. Sudduth eschews brushes and palette knives, instead using his index finger to paint and a pocketknife or nail to etch in details. Lady in a Skirt is a rendering of one of Sudduth’s favorite subjects: women. The subject’s body is rendered with clay accented by soot and white chalk. Sudduth was given the Alabama Governor’s award in 2005. He died on September 2, 2007 at the age of 97.

Reference: Gail Andrews Trechsel, ed. Pictured in My Mind: Contemporary American Self-Taught Art (Birmingham, AL 1995), pp. 202-207.; Alice Rae Yelen, ed. Passionate Visions (New Orleans, LA 1993), p. 329.

Information courtesy of Neal Auction Company, December 2007.

Jimmie Lee Sudduth is considered among the early Southern masters of outsider art. He painted with his fingers using a mixture he called “sweet mud”, consisting of mud, paints, and syrupy sugar. He painted what he saw: self-portraits; his dog Toto and the other animals around his home; television personalities; the architecture and landscape near his home in Fayette, Alabama; and views of the cities he visited when he became known. Sudduth signed his works with his name and, to encourage future sales, with his telephone number. He was given his first public exhibition in 1972 at the Fayette Art Museum. In 1976 he was selected as one of two artists to represent Alabama at the Smithsonian Institution’s Bicentennial Festival of American Folk Life. A solo exhibition, The Life and Art of Jimmie Lee Sudduth, was hung at the Montgomery Museum in 2005. His work can be found in major collections including that of the All Souls Grown Deep Foundation and museums including the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C. and the High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA.

Information courtesy of Rago Arts, October 2019.

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