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Archibald John Motley


Archibald John Motley

(1891 - 1981)

Archibald Motley was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. When he was a year old, he moved to Chicago with his parents, where he would live until his death nearly 90 years later. While in high school, he worked part-time in a barbershop. His father, a Pullman porter on the Michigan Central Railroad, met Dr. Frank W. Gunsaulus, President of the Armour Institute (now known as the Illinois Institute of Technology) on the train. Meeting Archibald Motley, Gunsaulus took a great interest in him and wanted him to become an architect, offering him a four-year scholarship at the Armour Institute. When Motley insisted he wanted to become an artist, Gunsaulus paid his first year's tuition at the Art Institute of Chicago. Motley studied at the Institute for four years and feels his main influences came from two teachers there: Karl Buehr, an artist in portraiture and nudes, and Henry M. Walcott, an expert in composition. After his graduation, in 1918, he set up a studio in his parents' house. Working for a time on the railroad with his father, he filled many sketchbooks with drawings while traveling across the country.

His work has always been divided between portraits and narrative paintings of the street, cafe life and the jungle. His portraits are straightforward and simple recordings of personal character. One of Motley's portraits, "The Mulattress", won the Frank G. Logan medal and prize at the Chicago Art Institute exhibition of 1925. "Syncopation" won the Joseph N. Eisendrath medal and prize in the same show. He received the Gold Medal in the first Harmon Foundation exhibition in 1928. He also exhibited at the Harmon Foundation in 1929 and 1931, the Grand Central Galleries in 1931 and 1933, the Toledo Museum, and is represented in the permanent collection of Howard University. In 1929, Motley won a John Simon Guggenheim award, the first black artist to receive such a fellowship, and spent the year painting and studying in Paris. During the year, he exhibited paintings with the Swedish-American Society in Stockholm, Copenhagen and Munich.


Self Portrait




Mending Socks


Woman Peeling Apples


The Octoroon Girl






Dans la Rue, Paris


Cafe Paris


Jockey Club


Portrait of Mrs. A. J. Motley, Jr.


Portrait of my Mother


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