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Learn more about Norman Lewis and his abstract impressionist paintings.

The Legacy

Norman Lewis, born in 1909 in New York, was the first major African American abstract expressionist. Lewis, like fellow artist, Jacob Lawrence attended the art workshops in Harlem. At the art centers Lewis studied African art and was introduced to Howard University professor, Alain Locke's ideas about art, which Locke believed, should derive from African themes and aesthetics. However Lewis saw limitations in the New Negro ideals and questioned its effectiveness in expressing his own identity and interests of the African American community. Lewis later moved from abstract figuration to modernism, as exemplified by artists Wassily Kandinsky and Pablo Picasso. His paintings from this time are devoid of realistic imagery and focused more on conceptual expression, often referring to African American settings and culture. Lewis, always active in the art community, in the 1960s was a founding member of the Spiral Group, a group of African American artists who sought to contribute through their art to the civil rights movement.

Related Artists:
Jacob Lawrence

Yellow Hat (1936)
Click to enlarge

Period & Artists
Pre-Civil War
Exploring Freedom
The Harlem Renaissance
The Legacy
Jacob Lawrence
Norman Lewis
Social Activism
Modern Identities
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