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A Study of Negro Artists (1936) - Silent Documentary

An important film for those interested in art history and African American history, this silent film from the 1930s covers some important visual artists during the Harlem Renaissance. It starts with an appropriately arty montage of many African American artists made their living during the day, mostly working blue collar jobs, while working on their art in their off hours. Then we see a series of artists at work: Richmond Barthe, noted sculptor (in particular, large outdoor work); James Latimer Allen, noted portrait photographer (known particularly for documenting the Harlem Renaissance); Aaron Douglas, one the major painters of the era; Palmer Hayden, another prolific painter; and Augusta Savage, the leading female sculptor of the movement. While this film doesn’t tell much about them, we them in their studios and examples of their work. The Harlem Renaissance was one of the transformative times of American art history, and this film serves as an important document of that time.