Woodruff lived and worked in Paris from 1926 to 1930 with support from the Harmon Foundation, a Chicago-based organization which promoted aspiring Black American artists. The Card Players dynamically synthesizes the wide range of sources he encountered during this period, including Cubism, West and Central African art, and paintings by Paul Cézanne (1839–1906). Two figures with heads resembling Fang-Betsi sculptures play cards at a table in emulation of Cézanne’s famed series on the same theme. Angular forms pervade the composition, many of them accentuated with thick outlines akin to carved wood. Upon his return to the United States, Woodruff became a prolific printmaker and muralist whose work examined and celebrated Black American culture and history.
Due to rights restrictions, this image cannot be enlarged, viewed at full screen, or downloaded.
Use your arrow keys to navigate the tabs below, and your tab key to choose an item
Title:The Card Players
Artist:Hale Woodruff (American, 1900–1980)
Medium:Oil on canvas
Dimensions:23 1/2 × 29 3/8 in. (59.7 × 74.6 cm)
Credit Line:George A. Hearn Fund, 2015
Inscription: Signed and dated (lower left): Woodruff/ 30
the artist, New York (1930–78; sold in 1978 to private collection); private collection (1978–2015; sold to MMA)
New York. Art Center. "Exhibition of the Works of Negro Artists Presented by the Harmon Foundation," February 16–28, 1931, no. 114 (as "The Card Players [Composition]").
Hempstead, N. Y. Hofstra University, Emily Lowe Gallery. "A Blossoming of New Promises: Art in the Spirit of the Harlem Renaissance," February 5–March 18, 1984, no. 53 (lent by Mrs. Arti Freeman).
Atlanta. Spelman College Museum of Fine Art. "Hale Woodruff, Nancy Elizabeth Prophet and the Academy," January 18–May 12, 2007, no. 12 (lent by Arti Freeman).
Atlanta. High Museum of Art. "Rising Up: Hale Woodruff's Murals at Talladega College," June 9–September 2, 2012, unnumbered cat. (pl. .8).
Washington, D.C. Phillips Collection. "Riffs and Relations: African American Artists and the European Modernist Tradition," February 29, 2020–January 3, 2021, unnumbered cat. (pl. 11).
John Ralph Willis. Fragments of American Life: An Exhibition of Paintings: Romare Bearden, Joseph Delaney, Rex Goreleigh, Lois Mailou Jones, Jacob Lawrence, Hughie Lee-Smith, Hale Woodruff. Exh. cat., Art Museum, Princeton University. Princeton, 1976, p. 15.
Gail Gelburd. A Blossoming of New Promises: Art in the Spirit of the Harlem Renaissance. Exh. cat., Hofstra University, Emily Lowe Gallery. Hempstead, N. Y., 1984, unpaginated, no. 53, ill. (color).
Catherine Bernard inExplorations in the City of Light: African–American Artists in Paris, 1945–1965. Ed. Audreen Buffalo. Exh. cat., Studio Museum in Harlem. New York, 1996, p. 25, ill. (image reversed), states that it is a lost painting.
Theresa Leininger-Miller. New Negro Artists in Paris: African American Painters and Sculptors in the City of Light, 1922–1934. New Brunswick, N.J., 2001, pp. 132–36, 245–46, colorpl. 14, erroneously identifies it as "Cardplayers, 1978 (after the 1930 original)".
Theresa Leininger-Miller inHarlem Renaissance. Ed. Alison B. Amick. Exh. cat., Oklahoma City Museum of Art. Oklahoma City, 2008, p. 85, ill., erroneously identifies it as "Cardplayers, 1978 (after the 1930 original)".
Phoebe Wolfskill. "Caricature and the New Negro in the Work of Archibald Motley Jr. and Palmer Hayden." Art Bulletin 91 (September 2009), p. 356, fig. 14.
Stephanie Mayer Heydt inRising Up: Hale Woodruff's Murals at Talladega College. Exh. cat., High Museum of Art. Atlanta, 2012, pp. 32, 148, colorpl. 8.
Phoebe Wolfskill. Archibald Motley Jr. and Racial Reinvention: The Old Negro in New Negro Art (2017), pp. 122, 126.
Max Hollein. Modern and Contemporary Art in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 2019, ill. p. 70 (color).
Adrienne L. Childs inRiffs and Relations: African American Artists and the European Modernist Tradition. Exh. cat., Phillips Collection, Washington, D. C. New York, 2019, pp. 40–41, 60 n. 23, pp. 162, 199, colorpl. 11.
The Met Collection API is where all makers, creators, researchers, and dreamers can connect to the most up-to-date data and public domain images for The Met collection. Open Access data and public domain images are available for unrestricted commercial and noncommercial use without permission or fee.
We continue to research and examine historical and cultural context for objects in The Met collection. If you have comments or questions about this object record, please complete and submit this form. The Museum looks forward to receiving your comments.