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Bill Traylor - Artist

07 April 2011


When I lived in NY one of my favourite museums to visit was the American Folk Art Museum - they have a really great collection.  That's where I first saw the work of Bill Traylor and I have a couple of treasured postcards that I bought there in my office still.  Bill Traylor was a self-taught African American artist who was born a slave on an  Alabaman plantation in the 1850's.  He was poor and illiterate, and horrifically his son was killed by two Klan-member policemen in the 1920's.  It's extraordinary really to remember that lives like his are relatively recent history.

Apparently he didn't even start drawing until he was in his 80's but when he did there was no stopping him.  He was very prolific and produced 1500 or so images.  I really like the flat silhouetted quality of his work, the way he plays with scale and space around his characters.  He mostly focussed on people passing by on the sidewalk, but also on farm scenes from his memory.  I like the way he uses colour, in a very simple way that makes the images really strong.


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