(Farm Scene with Cow and Man, c. 1939-42)
(Figures and Construction with Blue Border, c. 1941)
Bill Traylor was born into slavery in 1854 on a cotton plantation owned by William Hartwell Traylor in Benton, Alabama. After emancipation, Traylor continued to work on the plantation as a sharecropper until the 1930's. Around 1939, when he was eighty-five years old, Traylor began drawing, producing approximately 1,500 pieces in the next three years. Traylor probably would have remained relatively anonymous if local artist Charles Shannon had not taken notice of his talents. Shannon provided Traylor with many supplies and purchased his works, fueling the budding artist's passion.
Traylor worked mainly with pencil, later progressing to charcoal, crayons, and paint on cardboard. His works are simple: dark, unadorned figures on a blank but not pure background.
I chose to research Traylor because the stark simplicity of his pieces is intriguing. No message gets lost in the ornateness of the background or environment of his subject: it is just the viewer and the subject. He also drew everyday life around him, focusing on farm animals, agriculture, and expressing people. The straightforwardness with which he expresses human figures, such as the female drinker, allows one to relate more to the figure, to use his piece as a template for one's own imagination.
Although these works are not merely sketches, you can see evidence of Traylor's working process in the pieces themselves. In many of them you can still see the pencil lines–sketches of geometric shapes that are filled in to create the full image. He was working with cardboard and had very few drawing materials, making his pieces even more unique and riveting. I love his works because they seem so personal, almost like a diary of his daily encounters. In a way, his pieces look like a living sketch book: he took whatever materials he could find to capture an everyday image. Perhaps that's why he produced so many pieces in such a short period of time. Regardless, Traylor is a fascinating artist and I'm glad that I stumbled upon his works
(Biographical found in information in descriptions of images)
Traylor, Bill. Dog. c 1939-1942. American Folk Art Museum. ARTstor. Web. 2 Oct. 2011.
Traylor, Bill. Farm Scene with Cow and Man. c 1939-1942. Philadelphia Museum of Art. ARTstor. Web. 2 Oct. 2011.
Traylor, Bill. Female Drinker. ARTstor. Web. 2 Oct. 2011.
Traylor, Bill. Figures and Construction with Blue Border. c 1941. American Folk Art Museum. ARTstor. Web. 2 Oct. 2011.