Dr. Melanie Anne Herzog writes of the present work, "In Mexico at mid-century, Elizabeth Catlett produced a number of small terracotta figures, often representing African-American women. Consistent with the social realism that predominated during the years in which she came of age as an artist and infused with her political sensibilities and her empathy for her subjects, she depicted the dignity and the exhaustion of workers, the concerns of mothers for their children, and the crushing realities of poverty. The stylistic range of her sculpture - from naturalistic realism to abstracted angularity - is characteristic of her ongoing exploration of the expressive possibilities of form in service to meaning.
Catlett’s Woman Fixing Her Hair is characteristic in its attention to her subject’s ethnicity and in the simplification of form, with extraneous details eliminated, that gives even such small figures a feeling of monumentality. While she often repeated an image or explored a theme in various materials (her mahogany Woman Fixing Her Hair (1993) is now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art), she generally conceived of her terracotta figures as both studies and as finished works. The addition of pigment to the surface of this terracotta figure also speaks to this as a finished piece and not simply a preliminary study in form."
We are grateful to Dr. Melanie Anne Herzog for her help with the cataloging of this lot.