Art/ Collection/ Collection/ Art Object
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Woman Fixing Her Hair

Artist:
Elizabeth Catlett (Mexican (born United States), Washington, D.C. 1915–2012 Cuernavaca)
Date:
1993
Medium:
Mahogany and opals
Dimensions:
27 x 18 x 13 in. (68.6 x 45.7 x 33 cm)
Classification:
Sculpture
Credit Line:
Hortense and William A. Mohr Sculpture Purchase Fund, 1993
Accession Number:
1993.217
Not on view
Elizabeth Catlett graduated from Howard University in Washington, D.C., in 1935, where she studied under a number of notable artists, including Lois Maillou Jones, James Porter, James Wells, and James Herring. She then obtained a master's degree from the State University of Iowa, studying under painter Grant Wood and sculptor Henry Stinson. During the 1940s, Catlett taught art at a number of schools and began to exhibit with other African American artists who would go on to equally illustrative careers, including Robert Blackburn, Jacob Lawrence, Hughie Lee-Smith, Norman Lewis, Archibald Motley, and Charles White. In 1946, Catlett moved to Mexico, establishing permanent residency there the following year and joining the Taller de Gráfica Popular, a printmaking workshop in Mexico City. Although best known for her wood and stone sculptures of archetypal black women rendered with abstract simplicity, she is also a talented printmaker and has produced lithographs and linocuts throughout her long career that celebrate the heroic lives of African American women.

Woman Fixing Her Hair is a late sculpture that embodies the characteristics of her best work. Its subject, a nude woman caught in the act of her daily toiletry, is familiar and empathetic. Melding human form and furniture into a seamless whole, the artist navigates a line between abstraction and realism, cubism and biomorphism. Her exquisite handling of natural material-the smoothly polished mahogany and luminous opals-conveys the beauty that she sees in her subject matter.
Inscription: Initialed and dated (lower right): EC 93
[June Kelly Gallery, New York, 1993; sold to MMA]

New York. June Kelly Gallery. "Elizabeth Catlett," May 8–June 8, 1993, unnumbered cat.

Philadelphia. Afro–American Historical and Cultural Museum. "Three Generations of African American Women Sculptors: A Study in Paradox," March–September 1996, no. 45.

New York. Equitable Gallery. "Three Generations of African American Women Sculptors: A Study in Paradox," November 1996–January 1997, no. 45.

Dallas. Museum of African American Life and Culture. "Three Generations of African American Women Sculptors: A Study in Paradox," February–April 1997, no. 45.

Los Angeles. California Afro–American Museum Foundation. "Three Generations of African American Women Sculptors: A Study in Paradox," May–July 1997, no. 45.

Boston. Museum of the National Center of Afro American Artists. "Three Generations of African American Women Sculptors: A Study in Paradox," August–November 1997, no. 45.

Savannah. Telfair Museum of Art. "Three Generations of African American Women Sculptors: A Study in Paradox," December 1997–February 1998, no. 45.

Neuberger Museum of Art, State University of New York at Purchase. "Elizabeth Catlett Sculpture: A Fifty-Year Retrospective," February 8–June 7, 1998, no. 53.

Blaffer Gallery, University of Houston. "Elizabeth Catlett Sculpture: A Fifty-Year Retrospective," October 23–December 20, 1998, no. 53.

Baltimore Museum of Art. "Elizabeth Catlett Sculpture: A Fifty-Year Retrospective," January 27–April 11, 1999, no. 53.

Mexico City. Museo de Arte Moderno. "Elizabeth Catlett Sculpture: A Fifty-Year Retrospective," May 20–August 1, 1999, no. 53.

Atlanta. Spelman College Museum of Fine Art. "Elizabeth Catlett Sculpture: A Fifty-Year Retrospective," September 13–November 12, 1999, no. 53.

Cleveland Museum of Art. "Elizabeth Catlett: Prints and Sculpture," September 15, 2002–January 15, 2003, not in catalogue.

Lizzetta LeFalle-Collins in Three Generations of African American Women Sculptors: A Study in Paradox. Exh. cat., Afro–American Historical and Cultural Museum. Philadelphia, 1996, p. 41, no. 45, ill. p. 45.

Lowery S. Sims in Three Generations of African American Women Sculptors: A Study in Paradox. Exh. cat., Afro–American Historical and Cultural Museum. Philadelphia, 1996, p. 46.



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