Soldado Senegales

Object Details

James Amos Porter
oil on canvas
18 1/4 × 14 1/8 in. (46.3 × 35.8 cm)
Frame: 25 5/8 × 21 9/16 in. (65.1 × 54.7 cm)
Soldado Senegales, or the Senegalese Soldier, was painted by James A. Porter in 1935, the same year the artist went away on sabbatical leave from Howard University to complete a fellowship on medieval archaeology at the Sorbonne in Paris, France. The portrait depicts Féral Benga, an expatriate Senegalese dancer living in France, dressed in the khaki uniform and fez of the Senegalese Tirailleur, a French colonial soldier. The work offers a subtle critique of European colonial occupation in Africa during the early years of the twentieth century, a condition that persisted until the mid-1970s. The red, striated background and selective use of outlines recalls the shallow interior spaces of modernist masters, such as Henri Matisse and Vincent Van Gogh.
Porter also received grants to travel to Belgium, Holland, Germany, and Italy to study collections of European and African art. He received his M.A. in art history at New York University in 1937 and would later go on to become a pioneer and scholar in the field of African American art history, authoring the very first comprehensive publication on the subject in 1943.
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