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Countee Cullen

Countee Cullen
Winold Reiss, 16 Sep 1886 - 29 Aug 1953
Countee Cullen, 30 May 1903 - 1 Sep 1946
c. 1925
Pastel on illustration board
Sheet: 76.1 × 54.7 cm (29 15/16 × 21 9/16")
Frame: 89.5 × 68 cm (35 1/4 × 26 3/4")
Credit Line
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Lawrence A. Fleischman and Howard Garfinkle with a matching grant from the National Endowment for the Arts
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Born Louisville, Kentucky(?)
“Yet do I marvel at this curious thing,/to make a poet black and bid him sing!” With these words, Countee Cullen described the ambiguous position of the black artist in American society in the 1920s. By the age of twenty-two, Cullen had graduated with honors from New York University and completed Color (1925), his first volume of verse. He would become a leading figure of the literary and artistic movement known as the Harlem Renaissance. Winold Reiss’s portrait of Cullen appeared in the “Harlem” issue of Survey Graphic magazine, an overview of the Harlem Renaissance that would be republished as The New Negro. Here, Reiss conveys the poet’s introspection with tilted head and averted glance. Celebrating Cullen’s literary accomplishments, the portrait also captures the progressive spirit of the Harlem Renaissance and its quest for a new social awakening.
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National Portrait Gallery
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