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Now on View - Paper Vault

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We Have Been Believers

20th century
40.5 cm x 38.1 cm (15 15/16 in. x 15 in.)

Charles White (Chicago, Illinois, 1918 - 1979, Los Angeles, California) Primary

Object Type: print
Artist Nationality: North America, American
Medium and Support: Lithograph with scratching
Credit Line: Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Gift of Susan G. and Edmund W. Gordon to the units of Black Studies and the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin
               Accession Number:                2014.101             
Object Description: “We have been believers feeding greedy grinning gods, like a Moloch demanding our sons and our daughters, our strength and our wills and our spirits of pain. We have been believers, silent and stolid and stubborn and strong.” This stanza from Margaret Walker’s 1939 poem, “We Have Been Believers,” aptly describes the anxious yet optimistic expressions projected onto the two figures in White’s lithograph named after Walker’s poem. White’s adaptation of these tenacious sentiments reflects his desire to create socially conscious work that captured the mood of African Americans in the mid-20th century. The angular, chiseled faces of the black figures reflect the influence of African sculpture. They are also informed by the aesthetics of Mexican artists of the Taller de Gráfica Popular (People's Graphic Workshop) in Mexico City, where White and his first wife, artist Elizabeth Catlett, worked for much of 1947.

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