Gestural Figure Studies (part of Seventh Street Types)

Object Details

James Amos Porter
mid 20th Century
Ink on paper
14 × 10 13/16 in. (35.5 × 27.5 cm)
Artist and scholar James A. Porter worked across different mediums and subjects throughout his career, though he is best known for his figures and portraits. These ink sketches capture the actions and states of being for fifteen distinct figures. Many are labeled with descriptors, including “praying preacher,” “seamstress,” “melancholia,” “man doubled in pain,” and “man + son (artisans).”
Porter’s interest in movement is evident throughout these sketches. The hatch-marks, loose line quality, and dynamic poses reveal an influence by classical and Renaissance art, which Porter would have viewed in-person during a series of fellowships to study art and architecture in Europe between his undergraduate work at Howard University in Washington, DC, and graduate degree at New York University.
The disparate arrangement of figures across the paper suggests that they are planned components, or studies, for a larger work. In the bottom left corner, a small, rectangular thumbnail sketch—perhaps Porter’s intended composition—shows several figures gathered in a scene. Below it, Porter notes to himself that what may appear to be repose [in a figure] is actually an imperceptibly slow state of motion.
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