Analysis Of Archibald J. Motley 's ' An Oil On Canvas That Depicts The Vibrancy Of African American Culture

1192 WordsApr 21, 20175 Pages
Archibald J. Motley, Jr’s 1943 Nightlife is one of the various artworks that is on display in the American Art, 1900-1950 gallery at the Art Institute of Chicago. Motley Jr’s piece is an oil on canvas that depicts the vibrancy of African American culture. This piece portrays young, sophisticate city dwellers out on the town. (insert citation) Motley was fascinated by Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks, which was a part of the Art Institute’s collection in 1942. Motley was interested in this piece because of its treatment of artificial light. (insert citation) Motley’s Nightlife piece depicts a crowded cabaret in the South Side neighborhood of Bronzeville in Chicago, with people seated around tables on the right and at a bar on the left. Archibald…show more content…
The front of the painting looks open but when looking toward the back it seems almost crowded with people. I begin to wonder why are all these people gathered here? Clearly it is set at a bar but why is it so crowded with people? Was this a bar that is only exclusive to African Americans? When taking a closer look and analyzing everything that is happening in Motley’s Nightlife, it provides an understanding of the piece. Each person in the piece seems to be happy with many of them laughing and smiling. All of them appear to be having a good time listening to jazz music and swing dancing. In a study conducted by Rhoda Feldman at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, she uses inner-city public elementary school children from a school in Chicago that is predominately African American with families of low income. The study was conducted to see what these children observed from various artworks. The students observed the same that these African Americans were dancing the swing while listening to jazz. When asked how they know it was jazz music and swing dancing, they replied background. Even these elementary school children realized that Motley’s artwork clearly shows African American culture. (insert citation) Motley’s choice to set his piece in a club/bar with various colors place all around the bar, relates to jazz. Jazz music starts out with an idea and then you change it and play with it. It gets a

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