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A Boy Named Alligator

A work made of oil on canvas.

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  • A work made of oil on canvas.




Kathleen Blackshear (American, 1897–1988)

About this artwork

Chicago artist Kathleen Blackshear portrayed this young field worker named Alligator amid a rhythmic, stylized landscape that reflects her interest in modernist form. Blackshear was born in rural Navasota, Texas, and continued to spend summers there after she moved north. She defied the racial constraints still prevalent in Texas by befriending African American workers on nearby cotton farms and brought forth their individuality through her progressive approach to portraiture. Although cotton cultivation in the region was marked by the brutal legacy of enslavement and ongoing injustices, Blackshear here centers Alligator—a name or nickname that itself evokes a terrible history of violence against black children—as a laborer whose skills helped cultivate this lush landscape.

In Chicago, Blackshear was an influential teacher at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago from 1926 to 1961, and an important mentor to young artists including Margaret Burroughs and Eldzier Cortor.


Currently Off View


Arts of the Americas


Kathleen Blackshear


A Boy Named Alligator


United States (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.



Oil on canvas


56.2 × 46 cm (22 1/8 × 18 1/8 in.)

Credit Line

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William J. Terrell, Sr.

Reference Number


Extended information about this artwork

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