Harriet. 1975. Linoleum cut, composition: 12 7/16 x 10 1/8" (31.6 x 25.7 cm); sheet: 18 5/16 x 15 1/16" (46 x 38.3 cm). Publisher and printer: the artist, Mexico City. Edition:60. Ralph E. Shikes Fund
Linocut, 11” x 18”
Elizabeth Catlett Mora (born April 15, 1915) is an African American sculptress and printmaker. Catlett is best known for the black, expressionistic sculptures and prints she produced during the 1960s and 1970s, which are seen as politically charged.
Sharecropper, 1952, printed 1970,
color linoleum cut on cream Japanese paper
by Elizabeth Catlett Mora.
Catlett was born in Washington, D.C., the youngest of three children. Both of her parents were teachers.
She attended the Lucretia Mott Elementary School, Dunbar High School, and then Howard University where she studied design, printmaking and drawing. In an interview in December 1981 in Artist and Influence magazine, she stated that she changed her major to painting because of the influence of James A. Porter, and because there was no sculpture division at Howard at the time. She received her BS cum laude from Howard in 1935. She then worked as a high school teacher in North Carolina but left after two years, frustrated by the low teaching salaries for black people.
While living and working in Harlem,New York she was briefly married to Charles White.
In 1947, she married Mexican artist Francisco Mora, and made Mexico her permanent home, later becoming a Mexican citizen. They have 3 sons, including film director Juan Mora. Her granddaughter, Naima Mora, was the Cycle 4 winner of the America's Next Top Model television show. Catlett's sculpture, "Naima", is lf Naima as a child.
Since retiring in 1975, she continues to be active in the Cuernavaca, Mexico art community.
(above: Elizabeth Catlett, And A Special Fear For My Loved Ones [from the series "I am the Black Woman"], 1946, from the edition of 20 printed in 1989
Linocut on cream wove paper; 213 x 153 mm [image]; 385 x 285 mm [sheet])
In 1940 Catlett became the first student to receive an Master of Fine Arts degree in sculpture at the University of Iowa. While there, she was influenced by American landscape painter Grant Wood, who urged students to work with the subjects they knew best. For Catlett, this meant black people, and especially black women, and it was at this point that her work began to focus on African Americans. Her piece Mother and Child (done in 1939 for her thesis), won first prize in sculpture at the American Negro Exposition in Chicago in 1940.
She studied ceramics at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1941, lithography at the Art Students League in New York in 1942-1943, and with sculptor Ossip Zadkine in New York in 1943.
Catlett became the 'promotion director' for the George Washington Carver School in Harlem located at 57 W. 125th St. Roy DeCarava was one of the students. Some of the teachers included Ernest Crichlow, Norman Lewis, and Charles White, who was for a time her husband.
In 1946 Catlett received a Rosenwald Fund Fellowship that allowed her to travel to Mexico where she studied wood carving with Jose L. Ruiz and ceramic sculpture with Francisco Zúñiga, at the Escuela de Pintura y Escultura, Esmeralda, Mexico. She later moved, to Mexico, married, and became a Mexican citizen.
In Mexico, she worked with the Taller de Grafica Popular, People's Graphic Arts Workshop, a group of printmakers organized in 1936 and dedicated to using their art to promote social change. There she and other artists created a series of linoleum cuts on black heroes. They "did posters, leaflets, collective booklets, illustrations for textbooks, posters and illustrations for the construction of schools, against illiteracy in Mexico."
She became the first female professor of sculpture and head of the sculpture department at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, School of Fine Arts, San Carlos, in Mexico City, in 1958, and taught there until retiring in 1975. She continues to be active in the Cuernavaca, Mexico art community.
(above: Elizabeth Catlett, In Other Folks Homes (from the series "I am the Black Woman"), 1946, from the edition of 20 printed in 1989, Linocut on cream wove paper; 55 x 162 mm [image]; 255 x 205 mm [sheet])
She has received numerous awards including the Women's Caucus For Art. The Graphic Arts Workshop has won an international peace prize. An Elizabeth Catlett Week was proclaimed in Berkeley, California, and an Elizabeth Catlett Day in Cleveland, Ohio. She is an honorary citizen of New Orleans and has received the keys to many cities. She received an honorary Doctorate from Pace University, in New York and was accompanied to the presentation by fellow sculptor and good friend Manuel Bennett.
(above: Elizabeth Catlett, Civil Rights Congress, 1949, Linocut on cream wove paper; 310 x 180 mm [image]; 462 x 325 mm [sheet])
Some of her best-known prints are Sharecropper (1968 or 1970) (sources differ), and Malcolm X Speaks for Us (1969). Well known sculptured pieces include Dancing Figure (1961), The Black Woman Speaks and Target (1970), and The Singing Head. The National Council of Negro Women in New York City commissioned her to create a bronze sculpture, and her bronze relief adorns the Chemical Engineering Building at Howard University. In 2003 Catlett designed a memorial to author Ralph Ellison, which stands in West Harlem, NY.
She has created numerous outdoor sculptures which are displayed in Mexico; in Jackson, Mississippi; New Orleans, LA; and, Washington, D.C. She is represented in many collections through the world including the Institute of Fine Arts, Mexico, the Museum of Modern Art, NY; Museum of Modern Art, Mexico; National Museum of Prague; Library of Congress, Washington, D.C; State University of Iowa; Howard University; Fisk Unitersity; Atlanta University; the Barnett-Aden Collection, Tampa, Fl.; Schomburg Collection, NY; Rothman Gallery, L.A.; Museum of New Orleans, High Museum, Atlanta; and the Metropolitan Museum, NY.
MADONNA 1992 lithograph, edition 180 30 x 22" TWO GENERATIONS 1987 silkscreen, edition 60 22 x 30"