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Between Worlds: The Art of Bill Traylor

Daily, Now - March 17, 2019
From: 11:30 AM to 07:00 PM

Bill Traylor is one of the most celebrated American self-taught artists. His drawn and painted imagery embodies the crossroads of multiple worlds: black and white, rural and urban, old and new. His life—which spanned slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow and the Great Migration and foreshadowed the era of Civil Rights—offers a rare perspective to the larger story of America.

Traylor was born into slavery around 1853-54 on an Alabama cotton plantation near the town of Benton. He was around twelve when the Civil War ended, but he remained in service as a sharecropper for most of his life. Around 1930, Traylor moved to segregated Montgomery, where he lived the rest of his life, predominantly homeless and increasingly disabled. In his eighties, Traylor began to draw and paint—a life of plantation memories and a rising world of African American culture. He died in 1949 and left behind more than 1,000 drawings and paintings on discarded cardboard boxes and advertising cards.

Between Worlds: The Art of Bill Traylor is the first retrospective ever organized for an artist born into slavery and the most comprehensive look at Traylor’s work to date. The exhibition, for the first time, will carefully assess Traylor’s stylistic development and interpret his scenes as ongoing narratives rather than isolated events. His layered messages blended common imagery with arcane symbolism and used ambiguity as a means to explore themes of freedom and struggle in the Jim Crow South. His work balances narration and abstraction and reflects both a personal vision and the black culture of his time.

Image credit: Bill Traylor, Untitled (Yellow and Blue House with Figures and Dog), ca. 1939 - 1942

Event Location

Smithsonian American Art Museum
8th & G St. NW,
Washington, DC 20004
Penn Quarter/Chinatown


(202) 633-8530 or americanartpressoffice () si ! edu

Admission: Free!


Posted by: Smithsonian American Art Museum