The Room No. VI

Four people lay on a bed, three appear naked, which a boy has a yellow and green striped shirt. The sheets and blankets are in disarray.
© Eldzier Cortor.

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  • Four people lay on a bed, three appear naked, which a boy has a yellow and green striped shirt. The sheets and blankets are in disarray.

Date:

1948

Artist:

Eldzier Cortor
American, 1916–2015

About this artwork

Eldzier Cortor was born in Richmond, Virginia, in 1916 and moved with his family to the South Side of Chicago a year later. His coursework at the School of the Art Institute exposed him not only to the Art Institute’s iconic Western paintings but also to the Field Museum’s extraordinary collection of African art. When he decided to become a painter, he was drawn to abstraction but decided that nonobjective painting was incompatible with his desire to represent the African American experience and convey social messages with his art.

The Room No. VI is one of the finest examples of Cortor’s mature work, intended to expose the impoverished living conditions experienced by many African Americans on the South Side. Circumstances for many residents were challenging, as racism, segregation, and the increasing pace of migration of rural blacks from the South placed significant pressures on the limited housing stock. Entire families resided together, often in what were called “kitchenettes”—inadequate one-room spaces with limited access to kitchens or bathrooms. Despite his pressing social message, however, Cortor emphasized formal elements of pattern and texture, particularly the shapes and brilliant colors of the bed linens, floorboards, and wallpaper, whose dynamic, decorative appearance helps alleviate the bleakness of the scene. Cortor achieved a fundamental rethinking of the idiom of social realism that conveys the hardships of African American life in Chicago, even as he endowed the subject with a profound dignity and grace.

On View

American Art, Gallery 262

Artist

Eldzier Cortor

Title

The Room No. VI

Origin

United States

Date

1948

Medium

Oil and gesso on Masonite

Inscriptions

Signed lower right: E. Cortor Inscribed on verso: "The Room No. VI" / Eldzier Cortor / July, 1948 / oil on gesso / size 31" x 42" / Chicago, IL

Dimensions

107.3 × 80 cm (42 1/4 × 31 1/2 in.)

Credit Line

Through prior acquisition of Friends of American Art and Mr. and Mrs. Carter H. Harrison; through prior gift of the George F. Harding Collection

Reference Number

2007.329

Copyright

© Eldzier Cortor.

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 .

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