Herzog Melanie Anne, Elizabeth Catlett: In the Image of People, exh. cat., Art Institue of Chicago, Chicago (13 November 2005 – 5 February 2006), Chicago, Art Institue of Chicago, 2005→
Herzog Melanie Anne, Elizabeth Catlett: An American Artist in Mexico, Washington, University of Washington Press, 2002→
Elizabeth Catlett Sculpture: A 50 Year Retrospective, exh. cat.., Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase (1998), Washington, University of Washington Press, 1998
Elizabeth Catlett: Print Retrospective, Jamaica Arts Center, New York, 16 September – 25 October 1989→
Elizabeth Catlett: Works on Paper, 1944–92, Hampton University Museum, Hampton, 1993→
The Art of Elizabeth Catlett, Museum of the African Diaspora, San Francisco, 16 January 2015 – 5 April 2015
American painter and sculptor.
Excluded from Carnegie-Mellon University because of the colour of her skin, Elizabeth Catlett later attended Dunbar High School in Washington, where she studied with Lois Mailou Jones and then in the University of Iowa with Grant Wood, an expert on rural America. Her sculpture Mother and Child (1939), created for her final-year thesis, earned her first prize at the American Negro Exposition in Chicago in 1940. The visual power and clear ethnic heritage of this mother embracing her child was met with great success. After moving to New York with her husband Charles White – a major figure in the social realism movement – E. Catlett was introduced to cubism by sculptor Ossip Zadkine. At the same time, she took part in the activities of the Harlem Artists’ Guild, as well as the Harlem Community Art Center. In 1946, she created The Negro Woman, a series of lithographs which included I Helped Hundreds to Freedom, a representation of the “black people’s Moses”, Harriet Tubman, powerfully leading slaves to freedom. These lithographs inaugurated a whole series of works paying tribute to the courage and beauty of African American women.
In 1947, E. Catlett moved to Mexico with her second husband, artist Francisco Mora and studied alongside major figures of Mexican sculpture, Francisco Zúñiga and Jose L. Ruiz, whose struggle to create art in the service of the people deeply inspired her. Despite her expat status, she remained heavily involved in the civil rights and Black Power movements. The latter even used one of her most famous works as one of its emblems: Malcolm X Speaks for Us (1969). The first woman to be named head of the sculpture department of the University of Mexico, in 1959, she won numerous awards, such as the Tlatilco at the first biennial of sculpture held in Mexico City in 1962. Criticized by the US Embassy in Mexico City, which has a negative view of her relations with members of the Communist and Socialist Party, she abandons American citizenship to become a Mexican citizen, and she is declared undesirable in the United States. Nicknamed the “Mother of the Black Art Movement”, she obtain a special visa authorizing her to return to the United States, for a retrospective of her work organised by the Studio Museum in Harlem.
Elizabeth Catlett, Sharecropper, 1952, linoleum cut print, 47.8 x 43 cm, 18 3/4 x 16 3/4 in., © MoMA, © ADAGP, Paris
Elizabeth Catlett, Terra-Cotta Head, ca. 1960, terracotta, 21 x 23.5 x 27.9 cm, 8 1/4 x 9 1/4 x 11 in.,© Detroit Institute of Arts, © ADAGP, Paris
Elizabeth Catlett, Penones Mexicana, 1953, linoleum cut print, 18.4 x 13.3 cm, 7 1/4 x 5 1/4 in., private collection, © ADAGP, Paris
Elizabeth Catlett, The Black Woman Sojourner Truth Fought for the Rights of Women and Blacks, 1947-1984, ink and graphite on papier, 22.5 x 15 cm, 8 7/8 x 5 7/8 in., © Hammer Museum, © ADAGP, Paris
Elizabeth Catlett, Bread, 1968, linoleum cut print, 55.9 x 47.5 cm, 22 x 18 in., private collection, © ADAGP, Paris
Elizabeth Catlett, Singing Their Songs, 1992, lithograph on paper, 57.8 x 48.9 cm, 22 3/4 x 19 1/4 in., © National Museum of Women in the Arts, © ADAGP, Paris
Elizabeth Catlett, Woman Fixing Her Hair, 1993, mahogany and opales, 68.6 x 45.7 x 33 cm, 27 x 18 x 13 in., © the Metropolitan Museum of Art, © ADAGP, Paris