Elizabeth Catlett  (American, 1915-2012) 

Elizabeth Catlett (American, April 15, 1915–April 2, 2012) was a sculptor, painter, and printmaker well-known for producing politically charged black Expressionistic sculptures and prints in the 1960s and the 1970s. Catlett was born in Washington, DC, and attended Dunbar High School. She received a scholarship to study at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh, PA, but was rejected by the institution because of her race. In 1935, Catlett earned a BS and graduated cum laude from Howard University School of Art, in Washington, DC. She went on to graduate with an MFA from the University of Iowa in 1940, before moving on to study ceramics at the Art Institute of Chicago, IL. In 1942, she studied lithography at the Art Students League in New York City, and then, in 1943, she joined Ossip Zadkine (French, 1890–1967) to study sculpting. In most of her works, the artist combined fundamental elements of African traditions with the traditions of African Americans and western Mexico.

Catlett was originally enrolled to study design, printmaking, and drawing, but later changed her major to painting, due to the influence of James A. Porter (American, 1905–1970), and because Howard University did not have a sculpting department at the time. She taught for two years in North Carolina, but quit due to low salaries paid to black teachers. She was the first student to graduate with an MFA at the University of Iowa, and was greatly influenced by Grant Wood (American, 1891–1942), who produced great paintings of the American landscape. She sculpted Mother and Child in 1939, and a year later it won her first prize at the American Negro Exposition in Chicago, IL.

Catlett was involved in a number of exhibitions, including Prints & Drawings, at Sragow Gallery, New York, NY (1998), and Wood Sculpture, at June Kelly Gallery, New York, NY (2002). Catlett received a number of awards, such as the Lifetime Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award by the International Sculpture Center, in 2003. She is part of many collections around the world, including those of the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, GA, the Museum of Modern Art in Mexico, and the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. On April 2, 2012, Catlett passed away in Cuernavaca, Mexico.

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Elizabeth Catlett, IN SOUJOURNER TRUTH I …


Elizabeth Catlett

Edge Art
Elizabeth Catlett, Cartas


Elizabeth Catlett

Sragow Gallery
Elizabeth Catlett, Dancing


Elizabeth Catlett

Sragow Gallery
Elizabeth Catlett, Pauline


Elizabeth Catlett

Sragow Gallery
Elizabeth Catlett, Blues Player


Elizabeth Catlett
Blues Player

Sragow Gallery
Elizabeth Catlett, Virginia


Elizabeth Catlett

Sragow Gallery
Elizabeth Catlett, Jackie


Elizabeth Catlett

Sragow Gallery
Elizabeth Catlett, Glory


Elizabeth Catlett

Mojo Portfolio
Elizabeth Catlett, Head of Woman


Elizabeth Catlett
Head of Woman

June Kelly Gallery
Past auction results (208)  View All
Elizabeth Catlett, Woman fixing her hair


Elizabeth Catlett
Woman fixing her hair
terracotta w/patina and paint


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Elizabeth Catlett, Man


Elizabeth Catlett
Man, 1975
woodcut and color linocut


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Elizabeth Catlett, Three women of America


Elizabeth Catlett
Three women of America, 1990
color silkscreen


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1915   Born in Washington, DC
1935   BS cum laude, Howard University School of Art, Washington, DC
1940   MFA, University of Iowa
1941   Studied ceramics, Art Institute of Chicago, IL
1942 - 1943   Studied lithography, Art Students League, New York, NY
1943   Studied with sculptor Ossip Zadkine in New York
1944   Taught dressmaking and sculpture at George Washington Carver School in Harlem
1947   Had first solo exhibition at Barnett-Aden Gallery, Washington, DC
1958   Became Professor of Sculpture and Head of Sculpture Department at School of Fine Arts, National Autonomous University of Mexico, Mexico City
1962   Became Mexican citizen and was cited as an "undesirable alien" by the United States State Department
1971   Had first solo exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem
1976   Retired as Professor of Sculpture at University of Mexico
Moved to Cuernavaca, Mexico
2012   Died in Cuernavaca, Mexico
2002   Wood Sculpture, June Kelly Gallery, New York, NY
2001   Elizabeth Catlett, Works Of Art On Paper, M. Lee Stone Fine Prints, Inc., San Jose, CA
1998   Elizabeth Catlett Sculpture: A Fifty-Year Retrospective, Neuberger Museum of Art, Purchase, NY (catalogue; traveling exhibition)
1998   Elizabeth Catlett: Sculpture, June Kelly Gallery, New York, NY
1998   Elizabeth Catlett: Prints & Drawings, Sragow Gallery, New York, NY
1996   Prints from Mexico, Queens College Art Center, Benjamin S. Rosenthal Library, Flushing, NY
1996   Struggle and Serenity: The Visionary Art of Elizabeth Catlett, Caribbean Cultural Center/African Diaspora Institute, New York, NY
1996   In Rare Form, Afro-American Cultural Center, Charlotte, NC
1994   In the Hemisphere of Love: Elizabeth Catlett and Francisco Mora, Isobel Neal Gallery, Chicago, IL
1993   Sculpture, June Kelly Gallery, New York, NY (catalogue)
1993   Elizabeth Catlett, James E. Lewis Museum of Art, Morgan State University, Baltimore, MD
  Art Institute of Chicago, IL
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC
Library of Congress, Washington, DC
Philadelphia Museum of Art, PA
Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT