Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Self-Taught Southern African American Artist William Hawkins 1895-1990

As proudly inscribed on most of his paintings, William Hawkins was born in Kentucky on July 27, 1895, though he spent much of his adult life in & around Columbus, Ohio, where he first moved in 1916 to avoid a shotgun wedding. One of the most highly regarded African-American self-taught artists of the 20th-century, Hawkins worked tirelessly at numerous jobs—often simultaneously—ranging from breaking horses & running numbers to industrial steel casting & truck driving.

William Hawkins (Self-Taught American artist, 1895-1990) Horse with Yellow Tail Ricco Maresca Gallery, New York

He served in the Army in World WW I, working burial details in France. Hawkins began painting in the 1930s, though he only dedicated himself exclusively to art around 1979, when he was discovered by neighboring artist Lee Garrett, leading to national attention & what collectors generally describe as his mature period.

William Hawkins (Self-Taught American artist, 1895-1990) Elk with Human Eyes Phyllis Kind Gallery, New York

Tending to paint with a single brush & semigloss enamels on large plywood & Masonite surfaces, he often worked from his own black-&-white photographs of buildings & animals, boldly articulating his unique, expressionistic interpretations of architectural form, religious subjects, & nature studies in bright color & broad, patterned brushstrokes. By the time of his death in 1990, Hawkins had amassed a body of work comprising approximately 500 paintings & pencil drawings (not counting his lost early pieces), gradually turning toward human figuration in his final years. His highly personal visions of architecture & pop cultural themes are generally rendered in a restrained palette, sometimes including collaged found objects or images to designate depth & dimension in lieu of conventional perspective or detail. William Hawkins is one of America’s most widely exhibited & collectable self-taught painters, and his work can be found at the American Folk Art Museum, New York; the High Museum of Art, Atlanta; the National Gallery, Washington, D.C.; & in Ohio at the Columbus Museum of Art & the Akron Art Museum.

Brendan Greaves on the website of the Foundation for Self-Taught American Art

William Hawkins (Self-Taught American artist, 1895-1990) Five Horses Collection of Audrey B. Heckler, New York

William Hawkins (Self-Taught American artist, 1895-1990) Alligator 1988 Phyllis Kind Gallery, New York