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Details & Cataloguing

Modern and Contemporary African Art

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London

Ben Enwonwu
1921 - 1994
NEGRITUDE
signed and dated 1978 (lower right)
gouache on paper
75 by 55cm., 29½ by 21½in.
Painted in 1978
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Provenance

Private Collection, Lagos

Catalogue Note

Negritude (1978) was painted by Nigerian artist Ben Enwonwu, who is highly regarded as one of the great artists of the African modernist movement. Created in his ‘reiteration that postcolonial African art must reflect the aspirations of independent African people’, the painting reflects the ideology of Negritude which began to thrive in the 1960s (S. Ogbechie, Ben Enwonwu: The Making of an African Modernist, Rochester, 2008, p. 187). According to S. Ogbechie, 'this was arguably the most influential among the various interpretations of pan-Africanism that were proffered by African intellectuals as viable modes of cultural practice in the postcolonial era' (ibid., p. 170).

In Negritude, the silhouette of a black female figure forms the foreground of the composition. With its curves, materiality, and form the figure bears similar physical characteristics to Enwonwu’s sculpture Torso of Womanhood (1986-88). Between his sculptures and paintings, Enwonwu transferred an 'abstract orientation through biomorphic representations of male and female torsos' (ibid., pp 196). As a contrast to his other dance themed Negritude paintings which depicted multiple subjects in motion, Negritude depicts the main figure in thoughtful solitude.

Modern and Contemporary African Art

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London