Building More Stately Mansions
Aaron Douglas, American, Building More Stately Mansions, 1944, Oil on canvas board; 50.8 x 40.6 cm (20 x 16 inches), Purchased with the Frederick Lippitt Bequest 2008.30
Kansas-born Aaron Douglas came to New York in 1925 at the outset of the Harlem Renaissance. Intense engagement with other African American artists, writers, and musicians influenced the development his unique modernist style. Building More Stately Mansions, a study for a larger work Douglas painted while teaching at Fisk University in Nashville, symbolizes the labor of black men and women. Their active figures are silhouetted against a utopian background, while concentric bands of muted color suggest the continuum of history and knowledge. The implied passage of time links the builders of pyramids, temples, and churches to those of modern skyscrapers and anticipates the intellectual and artistic achievements of African Americans in the future.