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.
Inscription: signed and dated on back, chiseled into stone: "MP 50"
44.4 × 25.4 × 25.4 cm (17 1/2 × 10 × 10 in.)
Pauline Palmer Prize Fund
Extended information about this artwork
C. J. Bullict, “Student Takes Highest Chicago Honors,” The Art Digest (June 1, 1951): 12 (ill.).
Marion Perkins, Problems of the Black Artist (Chicago: Free Black Press, 1971), ill. cover.
Andrew Patner, “Breaking Barriers: A Chicago Artist’s Posthumous Acclaim,” Chicago Sun-Times, October 24, 1999, 6E (ill.).
Daniel Schulman, “Marion Perkins: A Chicago Sculptor Rediscovered,” Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 24, 2 (1999), 220–243, figs. 1, 21.
Susan F. Rossen, “Introduction,” Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 24, 2 (1999), 141.
Judith A. Barter et al., American Modernism at the Art Institute of Chicago, From World War I to 1955, (Chicago: Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2009), cat. 170.
Julia Perkins, Michael Flug, and David Lusenhof, eds., “to see reality in a new light”: The Art and Activism of Marion Perkins, exh. cat. (Chicago: Vivian G. Harsh Society and Third World Press, 2013), 28 (ill.), 29.
Chicago, Art Institute of Chicago, 55th Annual Exhibition, Artists of Chicago and Vicinity, May 31–July 8, 1951, cat. 130 (ill.).
New York, The Downtown Gallery, Artists of Chicago, Sept. 14–Oct. 2, 1954, cat. 28; 1020 Art Center, Chicago, Illinois, Oct. 15–Nov. 15, 1954, cat. 30.
Highland Park, IL, Willet House, Week of Art in Highland Park, Feb. 2–Mar. 1, 1959.
Chicago, The Art Institute of Chicago, Art in Illinois, In Honor of the Illinois Sesquicentennial, June 15– Sept. 8, 1968, checklist only.
Springfield, Illinois, Illinois State Museum, Painters and Sculptors in Illinois: 1820–1945, Oct. 30–Dec. 12, 1971; Krannert Art Museum, University of Illinois, Champaign, Illinois, Feb. 6–27, 1972; Lakeview Center for the Arts and Sciences, Peoria, Illinois, Mar. 10–Apr. 16 1972; Chicago Historical Society, Apr. 26–June 24, 1972, cat. 61 (ill.). Organized by Illinois Arts Council.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Two Centuries of Black American Art, Sept. 30–Oct. 21, 1976, cat. 138 (ill.); High Museum of Art, Atlanta, Georgia, Jan. 8– Feb. 20, 1977; Museum of Fine Arts, Dallas, Texas, Mar. 30,–May 15, 1977; The Brooklyn Museum, June 25–Aug. 21, 1977.
Chicago Public Library Cultural Center, Marion Perkins, Feb. 19–Apr. 1, 1979, no cat.
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Illinois, Art in Chicago, 1945–1995, Nov. 16, 1996–Mar. 23, 1997, cat. 16 (ill.).
Chicago, Spertus Museum, A Force for Change: African American Art and the Julius Rosenwald Fund, 2 Feb–5 June 2009; Allentown Art Museum, Sept. 13, 2009–Jan. 10, 2010; Montclair Art Museum, Feb. 6–July 25, 2010 (Chicago only).
Art Institute of Chicago, They Seek a City: Chicago and the Art of Migration, 1910–1950, Mar. 3–June 3, 2013, cat. 93.
The artist, 1950; sold to the Art Institute of Chicago, 1951.
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