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#5WomenArtists – Elizabeth Catlett




Elizabeth Catlett, 1986 (photograph by Fern Logan), Photo from Wikipedia

Elizabeth Catlett (1915 – 2012) was a teacher and a successful artist. She graduated cum laude from Howard University in 1935. Catlett had not originally planned on going to Howard because she won a scholarship to the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh. After the college found out she was black, however, the university denied her the chance to enroll.

She focused her art on the continuous struggle for equality, Black people, and women. Catlett worked with clay, wood, and stone for her sculptures, as well as creating woodcuts and linocuts. Her work was inspired by her firsthand experience of the segregation between ethnic groups. Catlett focused on depicting African American women as strong, maternal figures.

Elizabeth Catlett (American, 1915-2012) ‘Seated Woman’, c. 1961-1971, bronze, On loan from The Thomas H. and Diane DeMell Jacobsen Ph.D. Foundation, L.2016.3.1.

An accomplished sculptor and printmaker, Elizabeth Catlett remains one of the leading African American political artists of her generation. Beginning in the 1940s, she created several sculptural representations of seated women and she returned to this theme repeatedly throughout her career. With the extraneous details eliminated, even her smaller figures are imbued with a feeling of dignity and monumentality.

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