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Archibald John Jr. Motley

  • CountryUnited States
  • Born1891
  • Died1981


Archibald J. Motley Jr. was an American painter who was one of the first artists to concentrate on African American life in his paintings. His work provided a foundation for much of the work that became identified with the Harlem Renaissance. He became one of the first black artists to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago between 1914 -1918. In 1928, he became only the second black artist ever to have a one-man exhibition in New York City. Following his early success, he received a Guggenheim Fellowship to travel to Paris between 1929 and 1930, where he painted one of his most referenced works, Blues (1929), capturing the vibrant nightlife of the African community in Paris. Motley is also known for his later genre scenes of Chicago’s Black Belt where his Jazz influence is easily recognised in the buzz, rhythm and energy of the city streets. 

His works have been shown in a number of international institutions including the Tate Modern, London (2017), as part of Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power which explored the questions of identity and what it meant to be a Black artist in the USA during the Civil Rights movement and at the birth of Black Power movement between 1963 – 1983. His works have also been shown in the Whitney Museum of American Art (2015-2016), Los Angeles County Museum of Art, (2014-2015), Nasher Museum of Art, North Carolina (2014) amongst others. 

He was born in New Orleans but resided in Chicago. 

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