People in a Boat

Robert Blackburn American

Not on view

Blackburn's exceptional talent as a printmaker became evident when he was just a teenager, taking classes at the Harlem Community Art Center and at Charles Alston's Harlem studio known as "306." People in a Boat exemplifies his work at the time, showing his mastery of light and shadow, and his ability to imbue figures and compositions with heroic properties. The subject and inspiration for this work are complex. In one sense, it reflects the Depression-era's concern with the lives of working people and their struggles for daily survival. Blackburn has said that the picture refers to the mass exodus of Blacks from the South as they sought to escape prejudice and persecution. Visually, however, the image recalls Raphael's design for a tapestry depicting the biblical story of the Miraculous Draught of Fishes. In that parable Christ proves his divine powers to a group of hungry, wary fishermen by miraculously increasing their catch of fish.

People in a Boat, Robert Blackburn (American, Summit, New Jersey 1920–2003 New York), Lithograph

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