“Hale Woodruff in Atlanta,” on view at the High Museum of Art July 3-September 26, is the first solo exhibition of Woodruff’s paintings in Atlanta since his death in 1980.
The exhibition will present the work of one of America’s great, yet under-recognized African-American artists and educators; Woodruff began his professional career in Atlanta in the 1930s. Focusing on works Woodruff produced while living and teaching in Atlanta, the exhibition provides a better understanding of the pivotal role the artist played in the creative development of the city as well as offering a glimpse of his artistic growth and significance.
Although his early artistic years are portrayed as a struggle, Woodruff eventually developed the reputation as a promising young artist. He gained national recognition in 1926 upon receiving the William E. Harmon Foundation award, which provided funds to continue his art education in Paris, France. Living in Paris gave him the opportunity to become acquainted with other African American artists and scholars, including Henry Ossawa Tanner, who introduced him to Modern abstraction.
Later in his life, Woodruff also studied under the direction of renowned Mexican artist Diego Rivera. These individuals and their artistic techniques forever influenced his painting style.
Woodruff spent more than a decade in Atlanta beginning in 1931 when he became the inaugural fine arts instructor at Atlanta University. He quickly gained the admiration and confidence of both the faculty and student body. One of his most notable accomplishments was the establishment of the Atlanta University Annual Exhibitions, which was the predecessor to today’s National Black Arts Festival.
“Hale Woodruff in Atlanta” will be the first opportunity to view his presentation studies for “Results of Good Housing” and “Effects of Poor Housing” from the High’s permanent collection, along side the mural versions commissioned by Atlanta Housing Authority (AHA), placed on extended loan to the High. The murals clearly express Woodruff’s support of public housing in Atlanta.
This core will be supplemented by other Woodruff works that relate to his Atlanta years, including a portrait of Alonzo Herndon, also on loan from AHA.
The museum is at 1280 Peachtree Street. For information, 404-733-4437.