Reading List: Black History Month

In celebration of Black History Month, the Frick Art Reference Library offers its first Reading List, dedicated to the life, work, and legacy of Black American artists. The following titles are all e-books that can be accessed through the library’s online catalog, thanks to our program with Open Library. Discover these e-books by creating a free Internet Archive account.

For a closer look, check out our new Bibliography of BIPOC Artists, Collectors, and Dealers.

  1. African American Visual Arts: From Slavery to the Present

    By Celeste-Marie Bernier (2008)

    This title surveys the work of Black artists from different eras in the history of the United States. It discusses the work of such artists as Henry Ossawa Tanner, Harriet Powers, Charles Alston, Horace Pippin, Betye Saar, and Kara Walker and explores topics of activism, early abstraction, and transgressive visual poetics while focusing on aesthetic issues and experimental practices.

  2. Alma W. Thomas: A Retrospective of the Paintings (1998)

    Explore this catalog of an exhibition on abstract painter Alma W. Thomas (1891–1978) organized by the Fort Wayne Museum of Art. The show presented fifty-three paintings that illustrate critical moments in the development of Thomas’s artistic career. The catalog essays focus on the artist’s formative experiences; the Washington, D.C., arts community; and color, light, and nature.

Horace Pippin (American, 1888–1946), Harmonizing, 1944. Oil on canvas, 24 1/2 x 30 3/8 in. (62.2 x 77.2 cm). Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin College. Photo reproduction: Frick Art Reference Library Photoarchive
  1. Amazing Grace: A Life of Beauford Delaney

    By David Leeming (1998)

    Delve into the biography of modernist painter Beauford Delaney (1901–1979), as told by David Leeming, who spent time with the artist in the 1960s and 1970s. Leeming discusses the experiences and historical events that shaped Delaney as an individual and an artist in Knoxville, Tennessee, during his early years; in New York City during the Harlem Renaissance; and in Paris during the last years of his life.

  2. Elizabeth Catlett: An American Artist in Mexico

    By Melanie Anne Herzog (2000)

    This title examines the work of Elizabeth Catlett (1915–2012) at the Taller de Gráfica Popular in Mexico City, her prints made following that period, and her sculpture. Through this book, consider Catlett’s bold artistic language and her practice of visual politics that challenges discrimination based on race, class, and gender.

Left: Henry Ossawa Tanner (American, 1859–1937), Abraham's Oak, 1905. Oil on canvas, 21 3/8 x 28 5/8 in. (54.4 x 72.8 cm). Smithsonian American Art Museum. Right: Tanner, Portrait of a Man. Lewis Tanner Moore collection. Photo reproductions: Frick Art Reference Library Photoarchive
  1. Pathways to Unknown Worlds: Sun-Ra, El Saturn and Chicago's Afro-Futurist Underground 1954–68 (2006)

    Learn about the Chicago years of jazz musician and Afro-Futurist pioneer Sun Ra (1914–1933) in this exhibition catalog from the Hyde Park Art Center. Sun Ra and his associates started El Saturn Records, one of the first artist-owned record companies, in which music and the artwork they created to accompany it were used to release positive vibrations to build a better world. Through original drawings, essays, photographs, and poetry, this catalog explores ways in which Sun Ra blended African American alienation with an Afro-Futurist “utopian vision of interplanetary transplantation.”

  2. Rhapsodies in Black: Art of the Harlem Renaissance (1997)

    Flip through this important catalog that accompanied an exhibition of the same name held at the Hayward Gallery in London. The show introduced the British public to artists of the Harlem Renaissance, whose work had been relatively unknown outside the United States. The exhibition conceptualized the Harlem Renaissance as a global moment, spotlighting similar issues and themes between African American artists of the early twentieth century and Black artists in Britain during the 1980s to shed light on new perspectives on Black experiences and expressions of identity.

Edward Mitchell Bannister (Canadian/American, 1828–1901), Approaching Storm, 1886. Oil on canvas, 40 1/8 x 60 in. (102 x 152.4 cm). Smithsonian American Art Museum. Photo reproduction: Frick Art Reference Library Photoarchive
  1. Separate, But Equal: The Mississippi Photographs of Henry Clay Anderson (2002)

    In addition to two interviews with the photographer Henry Clay Anderson (1911–1998), this book sheds light on Anderson’s uncropped negatives not only as works of art but as eyewitness documentation of the Black community in Greenville, Mississippi, and its experiences with the Civil Rights Movement, segregation and integration, and in everyday life.

  2. Wake Up Our Souls: A Celebration of Black American Artists

    By Tonya Bolden (2004)

    For an introduction to Black artists in the United States from early America to the present day, enjoy this rich publication, created in association with the Smithsonian American Art Museum. While it is not meant to be a comprehensive work, the author highlights the lives and legacies of specific artists from different time periods and also includes a helpful glossary of art terms.

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