Ellis Wilson, whose father was also an artist, was born in Mayfield, Kentucky in 1899.
Wilson went north to Chicago in the early 1920s to study and participate in the African
American arts movement that was emerging in urban centers. He graduated from the Art
Institute of Chicago in 1923 and later moved to New York, where he participated in WPA
art programs and exhibited with the Harmon Foundation, an organization that promoted
the works of African American artists. In 1944 Wilson was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship
to travel in the South and paint ordinary African Americans at work and at home. During this
time he painted African Americans making turpentine, harvesting tobacco, and selling goods
at the open air markets of Charleston, South Carolina. Wilson also drew his inspiration
from his travels to Haiti, where he painted peasants at work. Wilson is probably best
known for his painting, "Funeral Procession," which was displayed in the living room in the
popular television sit-com, THE COSBY SHOW.
Old Charleston Market