Looking at African Art during Black History Month

The Chic Style Influence of African Artby Miriam Schulman, @schulmanArt

make a dramatic statement with an African Painting

This African tribal paintings was created from studying original African art sculpture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The tribal wall art has a wonderful abstract quality giving it a modern sophistication. The African artifact for this painting was a commemorative sculpture of a priestess and was part of a special exhibition titled “Heroic Africans: Legendary Leaders, Iconic Sculptures.” which took a look at sculptural traditions from West and Central Africa created between the twelfth and early twentieth centuries.

Musee Dapper, photographed by Hughes Dubois
Commemorative Sculpture of Priestess
High Priestess, 20×20″ Watercolor on Canvas, African Art

The artifact which inspired this work was a sculpture of a high-ranking priestess with close ties to a Bangwa chief in the Cameroon Grassfields. Alisa LaGamma, Curator, Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas, of The Metropolitan Museum of Art describes the art in this way: Simply standing before this dynamic female sculpture that pulsates with life is electrifying. She is captured with her head thrown back at an angle, mouth open, knees and elbows bent in an active stance with her weight shifted to the right side. Both the rattle grasped in her right hand and animated facial expression suggests that percussive sound and song animating her frenzied movement. The forces of gravity are evident through the downward pull on the prominent conical volumes of her breasts. Across the entire wood surface the carver’s adze marks further contribute to the immediacy of the sculpture’s raw expressive power. To view this artistic landmark as a centerpiece of this exhibition allows us to appreciate what is truly singular about it.While artists who immortalized leaders through sculptural monuments in Africa as elsewhere often favored idealizing them in a timeless manner as static figures with serene and reflexive demeanors, in this instance the subject is energy personified poised to spring into motion.

Detail of African Art

The dominant colors in these artworks are red, earth tones, stone gray, black and white.
I made seven drawings from the African Art collection during a visit and painted them with watercolors later in my studio. These abstract interpretations would look great in your house and complement your modern global home decor.


Tribal art detail

Title: High Priestess
inspiration: African Hero Series at Metropolitan Museum of Art
Size: 20×20″ Watercolor on CANVAS
Media: archival watercolor technique with varnish, allows this art to be displayed without a frame.

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0 thoughts on “Looking at African Art during Black History Month”

  1. The real irony is that abstraction, taken directly from African Art, became the holy mission and culmination of western modernism! It is important as artists to recognize our predecessors and I know I have been hugely infatuated with the highly stylized and abstracted forms from Africa!

  2. African Art is often characterized by vibrant colors, painterly textures, and asymmetrical composition giving it an iconic primitive modern disposition. But it is no secret among academics that the Cubism art movement of the early part of the last century was based on the exposure that Spanish painter Pablo Picasso had to African Art. Cubism has had a profound influence on what we call Modern Art and so African Art as its predecessor influences style today.


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I’m Miriam Schulman, your curator of inspiration.

I inspire art-lovers to reconnect with their creativity and profit from their art. Whether you paint simply for the joy of it or you’re serious about selling your work, and you’re ready to stop putting yourself on the back burner...You're in the right place. I've done it and I can inspire YOU how to do it too.

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