3 More
BILL TRAYLOR (circa 1853-1949)

Man in a Blue Chair with a Pipe

BILL TRAYLOR (circa 1853-1949)
Man in a Blue Chair with a Pipe
bearing Charles Shannon label -86 SINGLE FIGURES ANIMATED on reverse
graphite and tempera on repurposed card
11 1/2 x 17 1/4 in.
Charles Shannon, Montgomery, Alabama
Joseph H. Wilkinson, Chicago, Illinois
Anonymous sale; Sotheby's, New York, 21 January 2006, lot 361
Michael Bonesteel, Exhibition catalogue, Bill Traylor Drawings, From the Collection of Joseph H. Wilkinson and an Anonymous Chicago Collector (Chicago, Chicago Public Library Cultural Center, 1988) p. 6, no. 2, illustrated.
Exhibition catalogue, Bill Traylor: Drawings (Boston, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, List Visual Arts Center, 1990) cat. no. 41.
Chicago, Illinois, Chicago Public Library Cultural Center; Winston-Salem, North Carolina, Reynolda House Museum of American Art, Delta Fine Arts Center; Raleigh, North Carolina, The North Carolina Museum of Art; Louisville, Kentucky, J.B. Speed Museum; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Moore College of Art; Nashville, Tennessee, Fine Arts Center, Cheekwood; Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, Dunlap Art Gallery/Regina Public Library; Boston, Massachusetts, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, List Visual Arts Center, Bill Traylor Drawings, 6 February - 16 April 1988 (Chicago), 24 April - 31 May 1988 (Winston-Salem), 25 June - 28 August 1988 (Raleigh), 27 February - 8 May 1989 (Philadelphia), 8 January - 11 March 1990 (Nashville), 28 March - 6 May 1990 (Regina), 11 May - 1 July 1990 (Boston).

Brought to you by

Cara Zimmerman
Cara Zimmerman Head of Americana and Outsider Art

Check the condition report or get in touch for additional information about this

If you wish to view the condition report of this lot, please sign in to your account.

Sign in
View condition report

Lot Essay

Man in a Blue Chair with a Pipe is an exceptional work, revealing Bill Traylor’s mastery over space, his subject matter and his media. Traylor was born into slavery in circa 1853 and most likely did not begin drawing until he was in his eighties while living in Montgomery, Alabama. This work was made between 1939 and 1942, a brief period during which Traylor executed his extant drawings and paintings on cardboard. With the figure’s reductive form, bold use of the color blue and an infusion of whimsical humor, Man in a Blue Chair exhibits the classic trademarks of Traylor. The seated man leans forward with one hand pushing against the chair, the other holding a pipe to his mouth, his legs bent at the knee with one foot resting on its toes. Although simple in its form and shape, Traylor’s figure is full of energy, as if he could stand up at any moment and engage in conversation. Traylor’s man in blue is a reoccurring image in his works, and those depicted with a hat and pipe, such as here, are argued to be a visualization of the Haitian Papa Legba, the spirit of the dead and cemetery gatekeeper (see Jennifer P. Borum, “Bill Traylor and the Construction of Outsider Subjectivity,” Sacred and Profane: Voice and Vision in Southern Self-taught Artist, eds. Carol Crown and Charles Russell (Oxford, 2007), pp. 328-59). Should this figure be Papa Legba or a gentleman walking by on Montgomery’s busy Monroe Street, Traylor’s use of blue “successfully [alludes] to the spirituality of the figures and [lets] the blue’s liminality…embody the characters’ inherent nature” (Leslie Umberger, Between Worlds: The Art of Bill Traylor (Washington, D.C., 2019), p. 241).

More from Outsider and Vernacular Art

View All
View All