Work by Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller and John Wilson are explored in our Landman Gallery. From the Studio: Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller and John Woodrow Wilson highlights each artist’s dual treatment of the figure to represent individuals and embody universal themes.
Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller (1877-1968) is known for her groundbreaking depictions of the African and African-American experience. Throughout the 1910s and 1920s, she created intimate portraits of friends and family and self-portraits that elevated the African-American visage to an artistic subject equally worthy of depiction. Anticipating themes of the Harlem Renaissance, Fuller also used the figure as a metaphoric representation of popular music, and to represent broad themes as African-American artists and intelligentsia sought to formulate and celebrate an African-American cultural identity and express racial experience and social issues in America. Works such as the Study for Ethiopia Awakening and Study for the Spirit of Emancipation celebrate African heritage while expressing aspirations for the future.
Like the work of Fuller, John Wilson’s prints and sculptures represent both the universal and the personal. Images of anonymous parents and children parallel the intimacy of Fuller’s individualized sculptures of her friends and family. Wilson’s prints of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the idealized bronze, Head of Martin Luther King, Jr., a study for his well-known sculpture An Eternal Presence, however, use the visage of the revered 20th century civil rights leader as the basis for a universalized figure.
Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller (1877-1968) is one of the first African-American female sculptors of importance. Fuller was born and raised in Philadelphia, and trained at the Philadelphia Museum School of Industrial Art (now the University of the Arts). Upon graduation in 1899, she moved to Paris, where she studied with a number of artists, and gained the friendship of prominent mentors like intellectual leader W.E.B. DuBois and French sculptor Auguste Rodin. Fuller returned to the United States in 1902. Seven years later, she married Dr. Solomon Fuller, the first psychiatrist of African descent to practice in the United States. The couple settled in Framingham, where Fuller lived until her death in 1968.
John Woodrow Wilson was born in Roxbury, Massachusetts, in 1922, and studied under Karl Zerbe at the Museum School in Boston during the 1940s. Wilson was a part of the group that later became known as Boston Expressionists, a focus of the permanent collection at Danforth Art. Wilson’s broad-ranging career included work with Fernand Léger in his Paris studio, collaborations with the Taller de Gráfica Popular in Mexico, and significant commemorative portraits of the late Civil Rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. Examples of his figural work and depictions of Martin Luther King, Jr., including a large bronze study, can be seen at Danforth Art.
Danforth Art is proud to be the caretaker of the Meta Vaux Warrick Fuller Special Collection. This collection consists of ephemera, process pieces, studies, and other objects of art that expand upon some of the better-known aspects of Fuller’s oeuvre. The collection spans seventy years of creative output from Fuller’s early works in Paris, to her role as a precursor to and in the Harlem Renaissance, to her late works celebrating members of the African-American intelligentsia. Danforth Art is committed to the stewardship, exploration, and exhibition of this important collection.
In September 2009, Danforth Art and Framingham Public Schools partnered to create an integrated Visual Arts collaboration supported by the National Endowment for the Arts with a “Learning in the Arts” grant of $20,000, matched by the Sudbury Foundation and Target Foundation. The resulting education program teaches students about the life and work of Fuller while developing their critical thinking skills through close observation and discussion. A hands-on art activity expands the learning experience.
Danforth Art is committed to acquiring Wilson’s Head of Martin Luther King, Jr., a study for his well-known sculpture An Eternal Presence,for the Permanent Collection, creating lasting connections to significant aspects of our nation’s cultural and social history. To learn more about how you might contribute to making this sculpture and other works by African-American artists an eternal presence at Danforth Art, please contact Cynthia Hall Kouré, Director of Development, at 508-620-0050 ext. 41 or firstname.lastname@example.org.