Purvis Young (American, February 4, 1943–April 20, 2010) was a self-taught American artist who blended collage and painting styles, and used objects found on the street to describe his experiences in life. Young was born in Liberty City, FL, and was introduced to art by his uncle. He never had a formal education and did not attend high school. He served three years, from 1961 to 1964, at Raiford State Penitentiary for breaking and entering. It was while serving time in prison that Young rekindled his love of art and began learning about different art styles from books.
Once released from prison, Young began crafting thousands of drawings and placing them into a shopping cart. He then glued the drawings into books and magazines that he found on the street. In 1971, Young settled in Goodbred Alley in Miami, FL. It was there that he began following the mural movement that was popular in Chicago and Detroit. He drew paintings and nailed them to boarded-up storefronts. His work began to draw a following, and tourists would visit the alley to purchase some of his paintings. He eventually gained the interest of Bernard Davis, who owned the Miami Art Museum. Davis would provide Young with materials to create his murals. Young began to explore this artistic medium in the 1990s and 2000s after watching documentaries about war, the Great Depression, and other struggles.
While Young was a great artist, he was not financially savvy. A lawsuit between Young and his former manager, Martin Siskund, left him nearly destitute. He later settled the suit to be financially stable. Young’s works can be seen in the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., as well as in many private collections. Some of his more famous works include Flotilla, Horses, Horses, Horses, Horses, Judgment Day, and Figures and White Horses. Young developed diabetes and required a kidney transplant in 2007. He continued to suffer health problems and died in Miami in 2010 from cardiac arrest.