The Journey of Ellis Wilson

Topics: African American, African American art, African American artists Pages: 5 (1951 words) Published: March 14, 2012
Traveling is an aspect of what is perceived from our day to day lives, to something new that has never been seen. Ellis Wilson traveled throughout life with many struggles, and trials that created barriers in his overall success as an artist. Faced with many obstacles, he set on a journey with a paintbrush, visions, and stories all throughout his life. Regardless what life presented to him he kept treading on. He was met with new opportunities with each experience and that led him to his epiphany of his artistic ability when he was inspired by his travels to Haiti and the African culture of the people and their interaction. He moved forward with his talents, and his greatest influence, when his father passed away in the 1930’s. Ellis Wilson portrayed this emotion of losing a loved one in his painting Funeral Procession. (Wilson). This painting he expressed the significance of losing a loved one, overcoming a tragedy, but still being able to move forward and celebrate that lost soul. He had a personal connection to this losing his father at such an early period of his artistic and personal life. He left landmarks with all the various jobs he took to display his artistic talents, he never was discouraged, and moved forward creating a path that would be influential to later African American artists, decades and centuries later. He found comfort and warm close feeling still being connected to his home town; he still shared his success with them. His documentary explained, “Ellis’ continued interest in sharing his accomplishments and artwork with his hometown and home state reflected his strong connection to his community and family roots. He once told an interviewer that his only real regret was that his father, who had inspired his love of art in the first place, did not live to see his son’s success”(King). Wilson’s painting Funeral Procession created in 1958 was an exhibition of his signature style of angularity and elongation, a dedication of his artistic ability to his most significant influence his father.

Wilson was born into a small town Mayfield, Kentucky, into a family that financially struggled. Wilson was the fourth child of eight children; from a very young age he was born into a world that forced him to become an adult. Ellis admired his father, even though a barber had quite a talent to paint. Harry Henderson and Romare Bearden collaborated created a book that detailed the lives of major black artists. The book, A History of African American Artists resides a chapter about Ellis Wilson giving a time lined biography of his journey as an artists, enlightening the reader with and what he became to the history of African Americans. Henderson, and Bearden quoted, “As a young man, his father had also painted, usually working from photographs, among Ellis Wilson’s earliest memories are two paintings by his father: a very dark seascape in oil, which hung in their home and a large painting of Christ driving money changers from the temple in the barbershop. His father had taken lessons from an itinerant art teacher” (Bearden, Henderson 337). As a boy Ellis then discovered he loved to paint. Wilson lived in a difficult segregated time where African American children had to work so much that they never got to go to school. While Ellis was still very young, he started taking odd jobs to help out with the family finances. Among the many jobs he had while growing up, in Mayfield, Ellis was a janitor for a dress shop. One day while washing a dress shop’s window, he drew a portrait with soap on it, immediately attracting a crowd. The delighted proprietor had him leave the portrait on the window and create a new one each week. From there, his artistic journey began, and he attended an Art Institute for four years. Being a new atmosphere Wilson was open to new things, and new level as an artist. “In this new environment, Wilson lost much of artistic timidity: ‘I just cut out completely from anything that...

Cited: University Press, 2009. 540-543. Print.
Lewis, Samella S.. "Ellis Wilson (1899-1977)." African American art and artists. 3rd ed.
Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003
Saunders, Shellie. "Ellis Wilson." N.p., n.d. Web. 19 Oct.
Wilson, Ellis. Funeral Procession. 1958. Aaron Douglas Collection, Amistad Research
Center, New Orleans, LA
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