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Fern, from Cane

A work made of woodcut in black on cream colored kitakata, a japanese handmade paper.
© Martin Puryear

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  • A work made of woodcut in black on cream colored kitakata, a japanese handmade paper.




Martin Puryear
American, born 1941

About this artwork

Jean Toomer’s Cane is regarded as the highest literary achievement of the Harlem Renaissance and a masterpiece of African American writing, a blend of fiction, poetry, and drama set alternately in rural Georgia and Washington, D.C., among other locations. Puryear first read Cane while he was teaching at Fisk University, in Nashville, his first experience living in the south. He said that he related to the point of view of a visitor “looking at what so defines blackness in America, the agricultural life of the South, the sharecropping that had grown out of slavery.” In the late 1990s Puryear was asked to contribute illustrations to a new edition of the book. About his work for the project, Puryear has commented:
The overriding issue was to work in a two-dimensional medium. To make flat images is such a departure from what I do as a sculptor. I had seldom made woodcuts since my student days. The challenge was to create a set of images that would relate together in a familial way, suggestive of the narrative but not overtly so.


Currently Off View


Prints and Drawings


Martin Puryear


Fern, from Cane


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.



Woodcut in black on cream colored Kitakata, a Japanese handmade paper


Image: 26.5 × 32.5 cm (10 7/16 × 12 13/16 in.); Sheet: 42.9 × 52.3 cm (16 15/16 × 20 5/8 in.)

Credit Line

Margaret Fisher Endowment

Reference Number



© Martin Puryear

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.


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