White, Charles

White, Charles (Charles Wilbert White, Jr.), 1918–79, American figurative painter, printmaker, and teacher, b. Chicago, studied School of the Art Institute of Chicago. A left-leaning activist whose works often had political content, he was a prominent member of the Chicago Black Renaissance, an African-American cultural flowering of the 1930s and 40s. One of his most important early works is the mural Five Great American Negroes (1939–40), originally for a Chicago library, now at Howard Univ. law library. Another mural, The Contribution of the Negro to Democracy in America (1943) at Hampton Univ., is one of his best-known works. His earlier paintings and drawings tended to abstract the figure, but from the 1950s on White, a superb draftsman, turned to complete realism to portray African-American heroes, workers, and everyday life. In Los Angeles from 1956, he began teaching at what became Otis College of Art and Design in 1965; he was extremely influential on such younger black artists as Kerry James Marshall. White was also a fine printmaker, particularly adept at lithographs, turning in the 1960s black-and-white prints to color. In his last phase he combined painting and drawing, creating his Wanted Posters series, contemporary portraits that recall slave auction posters, and such pictures as the golden-toned Black Pope (1973).

See S. K. Oehler et al., Charles White: A Retrospective (2018, museum catalog).

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