Untitled (Man Reading)

Norman Lewis

American, of Bermudian descent (1909-1979)

Oil on canvas

c. 1940

Private Collection

Born in Harlem in 1909 to Bermudian immigrants, Norman Lewis
was an important artist in the American post war Abstract
Expressionist Movement. He studied with the pioneering sculptor
Augusta Savage, a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance, and
later took classes at Columbia. His work was influenced by the
New Negro Movement, jazz music and African sculpture that
he first saw in MoMA’s 1935 exhibition African Negro Art, which
would leave a lasting impact upon him.
Lewis was a member of the 306 Group, who met at 306 West
141st Street in Harlem, and together with other members of the
group he became a founding member of the Harlem Artists Guild.
He was one of the first African American artists to be accepted
into the Federal Art Program of the Works Progress Administration
(WPA), which he joined in 1936 as a teacher. There, he worked
alongside fellow emerging artists Jackson Pollock, Ad Reinhardt
and Mark Rothko. Together they would become leading figures
in Abstract Expressionist Movement.
Civil rights and the representation of the Black community are at
the core of Norman Lewis’ work, and he used art as a tool for
social change. In the late 1940s he moved increasingly towards
abstraction. Man Reading is illustrative of his growing interest
in this approach and marks a key turning point in his practice.

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