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Pennsylvania Artists

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Life (Young Girl Reading)

c. 1938-1939
20th Century
10 3/4 x 8 3/4 in. (27.3 x 22.2 cm)

Dox Thrash, American, (1892/1893–1965)

Object Type: PRINTS
Creation Place: North America
Medium and Support: Carborundum Mezzotint, Restrike
Credit Line: Gift of Benjamin D. Bernstein
Accession Number: 79-G-1054
Label for "American Scenes: WPA-Era Prints from the 1930s and 1940s", La Salle University Art Museum, March 12- May 30, 2014:

Thrash depicted African American subjects in an era when many worried that being labeled an African American artist, rather than just an artist, would marginalize their work. Langston Hughes, Alain Locke, and Marcus Garvey called for race-conscious art and Thrash was among the artists who embraced their thinking.

Here Thrash depicts a little girl absorbed in the act of reading
Life magazine. The choice of Life magazine em­phasizes the girl’s identity as an American. Art historian Richard Powell asserts that the “non-racial genre” image soft sells the idea of “commonality” and “unity” rather than separation in the African American experience of childhood.

Between 1930 and 1947, African American illiteracy rates stood at 11-18% compared with 2-4% for European Americans.3 Thrash had left school after fourth grade, which was not uncommon for an African American growing up in rural Georgia in the early 20th century. Thrash was an autodidact who studied by correspondence while living on the road as a teenager before attending the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. The act of reading was no doubt intended to communicate a posi­tive affirmation of the sitter’s literacy, intelligence, and cultural savvy.

Carmen Vendelin

Curator of Art, La Salle University Art Museum

Current Location: In Storage


American Scenes: WPA-Era Prints from the 1930s and 1940s, Curated by Klare Scarborough and Carmen Vendelin, La Salle University Art Museum, March 12- May 30, 2014.

- Benjamin Bernstein: A Memorial Exhibition, Curated by Madeleine Viljoen and Caroline Wistar, La Salle University Art Museum, Spring 2005.

- The African-American Image in Art, Curated by Caroline Wistar, La Salle University Art Museum, February, 1990.

- Africana, Curated by Madeleine Viljoen, La Salle University Art Museum, February – March, 2005.


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