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Charles W. White papers, 1933-1987, bulk 1960s-1970s

Biographical Note

Painter, printmaker, and educator, Charles W. White (1918-1979), was a prominent figure in the Chicago Black Renaissance and became one of the most celebrated and influential African American artists of the twentieth century. Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, White lived and worked in California beginning in 1956, and taught at the Otis Art Institute from 1965 until his death.
White began painting at a young age, earning first prize in a nationwide high school art contest. He studied at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he was awarded a full scholarship, from 1937-1938. After graduating from the school, White worked as a muralist for the Illinois Federal Arts Project sponsored by the Works Progress Administration from 1939 to 1940. He then received two fellowships from the Julius Rosenwald Foundation in 1942 and 1943 and created the mural The Contribution of the Negro to American Democracy at the Hampton Institute. From 1943-1945 he taught at the George Washington Carver School in New York City, and was artist-in-residence at Howard University in Washington, D.C., in 1945.
White's first marriage to Elizabeth Catlett ended in divorce and he married Frances Barrett in 1950. The couple relocated to Los Angeles where White was represented by Benjamin Horowitz's Heritage Gallery. White was widely exhibited in Los Angeles, and at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Newark Museum, the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, and elsewhere. Working primarily in black and white or sepia and white drawings, paintings, and lithographs, White's artwork was primarily figurative and depicted African American history, socio-economic struggles, and human relationships.
Charles White received a number of awards and honors and in 1972 he was the third African American artist to be elected a full member of the National Academy of Design.