About This Artwork

Marion Perkins
American, 1908-1961

Man of Sorrows, 1950

44.4 x 25.4 x 25.4 cm (17 1/2 x 10 x 10 in.)
Inscription: signed and dated on back, chiseled into stone: "MP 50"

Pauline Palmer Prize Fund, 1951.129

In the 1950s, Marion Perkins was one of Chicago’s foremost sculptors. He participated in nearly one dozen invitational exhibitions at the Art Institute of Chicago from 1942 to 1957 and received three awards of distinction. His career was capped by the museum’s 1951 purchase of one of his most extraordinary pieces, Man of Sorrows. This sculpture is indeed powerful, but its emotional intensity is not achieved through brute force of carving or any “primitivizing” influence. Rather, it succeeds through its brilliant balance of exaggeration and restraint. Its sheer physical presence is conveyed through the impressive bulk of the marble block—often scavenged from abandoned buildings. The head’s simplified, protruding eyes are shut tight; the pursed lips are both hidden and defined by a short stubby beard; the hair is veined with smoothly carved thorns. Christ’s contained expression of agony is arresting.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago, "55th Annual Exhibition, Artists of Chicago and Vicinity," 31 May–8 July 1951, cat. no. 130 (ill.).

New York, The Downtown Gallery, "Artists of Chicago," 14 September–5 October 1954; 1020 Art Center, Chicago, Illinois, 15 October–15 November 1954.

Highland Park, Illinois, Willet House,"Week of Art in Highland Park," 2 February–1 March 1959.

Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, "Art in Illinois, In Honor of the Illinois Sesquicentennial," 15 June–8 September 1968, checklist only.

Springfield, Illinois, Illinois State Museum, "Painters and Sculptors in Illinois: 1820-1945," 30 October–12 December, 1971; Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois, Champaign, Illinois, 6–27 February 1972; Lakeview Center for the Arts and Sciences, Peoria, Illinois, 10 March–16 April 1972; Chicago Historical Society, 26 April–24 June 1972, cat. no. 61 (ill.). Organized by Illinois Arts Council.

Los Angeles County Museum of Art, "Two Centuries of Black American Art," 30 September–21 October 1976; The High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia, 8 January– 20 February 1977; Museum of Fine Arts, Dallas, Texas, 30 March–15 May 1977; The Brooklyn Museum, 25 June–21 August 1977; cat. no. 138 (ill.).

Chicago Public Library Cultural Center, "Marion Perkins," 19 February–1 April 1979, no cat.

Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Illinois, "Art in Chicago, 1945-1995," 16 November 1996–23 March 1997, cat. no. 16 (ill.).

Chicago, Spertus Museum, "A Force for Change: African American Art and the Julius Rosenwald Fund," 2 February-5 June 2009; traveled to Allentown Art Museum, 13 September 2009-10 January 2010; Montclair Art Museum, 6 February-25 July 2010 (Chicago only).

Publication History

Daniel Schulman, “Marion Perkins: A Chicago Sculptor Rediscovered,” Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 24,2 (1999), pp. 220-243, figs. 1, 21.

Susan F. Rossen, “Introduction,” Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 24, 2 (1999), p. 141.

Judith A. Barter et al., "American Modernism at the Art Institute of Chicago, From World War I to 1955," (Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2009), cat. 170.

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