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Ralph Ellison Self-portrait

Artist
Ralph Waldo Ellison, 1 Mar 1914 - 16 Apr 1994
Sitter
Ralph Waldo Ellison, 1 Mar 1914 - 16 Apr 1994
Date
1941
Type
Drawing
Medium
Graphite on paper
Dimensions
Sheet: 14 x 11 cm (5 1/2 x 4 5/16")
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Restrictions & Rights
© The Ralph and Fanny Ellison Charitable Trust
Object number
NPG.2009.82
Culture
Ralph Waldo Ellison: American\African American
Exhibition Label
Ralph Ellison, born in Oklahoma, wrote about the African American struggle, and though he was not a practicing artist, he created this self-portrait in 1941, during a formative stage in his literary career. His appearance as an introspective young man aligns with the themes of marginalized invisibility and alienation, as well as the drive for representation that he explored throughout his life. A decade after Ellison made this portrait, he published his awarding-winning novel, Invisible Man (1952), a semi-autobiographical story about a young black man’s frustrating attempts to find his own identity, both in the segregated South and during a volatile era in Harlem. After the release of Invisible Man, Ellison lectured and published essays and short stories, but he never wrote another novel. In 1971, he gave this likeness to Burt Britton, a collector who worked in a bookstore and asked for self-portraits from personalities he encountered there.
Ralph Ellison, nacido en Oklahoma, escribió acerca de las luchas de los afroamericanos en Estados Unidos. Aunque no era un artista practicante, hizo este autorretrato en 1941, durante una etapa formativa en su carrera literaria. Su apariencia introspectiva va en línea con los temas de marginación, aislamiento, invisibilidad y ansia de representación que exploró durante toda su vida. Una década después de hacer este retrato, Ellison publicó su galardonada novela El hombre invisible (1952), una historia semiautobiográfica sobre la frustración de un joven negro que intenta encontrar su identidad, tanto en el sur segregado como en el volátil Harlem de la época. Luego de publicar El hombre invisible, Ellison impartió clases y publicó ensayos y cuentos, pero nunca escribió otra novela. En 1971 obsequió este retrato a Burt Britton, un coleccionista que trabajaba en una librería y pedía autorretratos a las personalidades que conocía allí.
Data Source
National Portrait Gallery
See more items in
National Portrait Gallery Collection