This iconic work by Bill Traylor is important from an historical standpoint, as it is the drawing Traylor rendered throughout a series of now-famous images by Charles Shannon. These photographs, some of which show Traylor surrounded by children observing his drawing, are among the most poignant records we have of the artist working, and the oft-reproduced and perhaps most famous portrait of Traylor includes this work in a near-completed state (see below).
After a lifetime on a plantation, former slave Traylor moved to Montgomery, Alabama. There, from a doorstep on Monroe Street, he composed starkly modernist images of lively animals, elaborate constructions and active people. This wonderful, abstracted drawing reveals Traylor’s masterful understanding of space and hints at his use of the posters, packaging and visual culture that surrounded him, as the camel on the lower left of this work likely draws from the illustration on Camel Cigarette cartons and posters popular in advertising of the day.