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Fri, 07.23.1909

Norman Lewis, an influential painter

Norman Lewis

Norman Lewis was born on this date in 1909. He was an African American painter.

Norman Wilfred Lewis was born in Harlem, New York. He attended New York Vocational High School, studying commercial design. During the 1930s, he was inspired by the works of sculptor Augusta Savage and became part of Harlem’s “306 Group” which was known for its address. Lewis’ first exhibitions came in 1934 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  His works were influenced by Diego Rivera, such as The Wanderer 1933).He organized and taught in art schools for the Works Progress Administration (WPA) from 1935 to 1938 and was a founding member of the Harlem Artist Guild.

During the 1940s, Lewis moved to Manhattan, became a more abstract painer, and had the first of nine exhibitions at the Willard Gallery.  Lewis had shows at the Museum of Modern Art in 1951 and the Whitney Museum in 1958. His works during this period are Boccio (1957), Bonfire (1962), Players Four (1966), and the Seachange series, (1976).  In 1969, he, Romare Bearden, and Ernest Crichlow founded the Cinque Gallery, an equitable place for minority artists. Lewis was one of the most important African American abstract expressionists who expanded the range of subjects and techniques available to artist of his generation. Norman Lewis died in 1979.

Reference:
The St. James Guide to Black Artists
Edited by Thomas Riggs
Copyright 1997, St. James Press, Detroit, MI
ISBN 1-55862-220-9

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