Between Worlds : The Art of Bill Traylor - the exhibition catalogue from Smithsonian American Art Museum available to buy at Museum Bookstore

Between Worlds : The Art of Bill Traylor

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'the book combines the formidable research and lively writing of the show’s curator, Ms. Umberger, and it does more than detail as never before the achievement of this singular artist, who was born a slave. It also sets a new art-historical standard, undermining the romantic myth of the outsider as unknowable miracle worker by examining Traylor’s achievement in stunning detail.' - New York Times

A major new look at the work of one of America's foremost self-taught artists, Bill Traylor (ca. 1853-1949) came to art-making on his own and found his creative voice without guidance; today he is remembered as a renowned American artist. Traylor was born into slavery on an Alabama plantation, and his experiences spanned multiple worlds--black and white, rural and urban, old and new--as well as the crucibles that indelibly shaped America--the Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, and the Great Migration.

Between Worlds presents an unparalleled look at the work of this enigmatic and dazzling artist, who blended common imagery with arcane symbolism, narration with abstraction, and personal vision with the beliefs and folkways of his time. Traylor was about twelve when the Civil War ended. After six more decades of farm labour, he moved, ageing and alone, into segregated Montgomery.

In the last years of his life, he drew and painted works depicting plantation memories and the rising world of African American culture. Upon his death, he left behind over a thousand pieces of art. Between Worlds convenes 205 of his most powerful creations, including a number that have been previously unpublished.

This beautiful and carefully researched book assesses Traylor's biography and stylistic development, and for the first time interprets his scenes as ongoing narratives, conveying enduring, interrelated themes. Between Worlds reveals one man's visual record of African American life as a window into the overarching story of his nation. 

One of The New York Times art books of the year.

  • Author: Leslie Umberger
  • Hardcover: 448 pages | 244 colour and 61 black and white illustrations
  • Date published: October 2018
  • Language: English
  • ISBN: 978-0691182674
  • Product Dimensions: 30.9 x 24.5 cm

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