Girl in a Red Dress

Charles Henry Alston American

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 999

Art historian Richard Powell describes Girl in a Red Dress as an exemplary portrayal of the "New Negro" woman who is "defiantly black, beautiful, and feminine, yet also unsettled, mysterious, and utterly modern." Alston, a foundational figure of the Harlem Renaissance, depicts the young woman in a way that embodies the artist’s synthesis of African aesthetics (in this case resonant with Fang reliquary busts) and modernist pictorial flatness in portrayals of African American subjects. Her graceful, elongated neck and sculpturally rendered face, combined with stylized modern attire and a contemplative gaze to the side, convey an enigmatic affect in which the unnamed sitter is seemingly oblivious to the viewer. Representations such as this one manifest the Harlem Renaissance philosopher Alain Locke’s exhortation that "art must discover and reveal the beauty which prejudice and caricature have overlaid."

Girl in a Red Dress, Charles Henry Alston (American, Charlotte, North Carolina 1907–1977 New York), Oil on canvas

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