"In Great Company": Professor David C. Driskell (1931-2020)

Painting of abstract throne by David C. Driskell

A tribute by Scott Baker (BFA 72, MA 75), Assistant Director of the Howard University Gallery of Art

“IN GREAT COMPANY”: Professor David C. Driskell (1931-2020)

In 1969, the legacy of the achievements of African American artists and their history, was in dire need of an absolute continuum to rescue it from the suffocation of its’ national importance. That year, James A. Porter (1905-1970), reprinted his 1943 textbook, “Modern Negro Art”, with a new introduction by him. In 1992, I had the pleasure of working on the revised edition by the Moorland library at Howard, and to work with Professor David C. Driskell, who also wrote a new introduction. This provided for a connecting and continuing discourse for new audiences of students, art historians, and researchers, in what he stated as “enabling a permanent continuity of the worthiness of serious research, and critical analysis of Black artists, and Black art history”.

A 1955 graduate of Howard, Professor Driskell began his studies in 1949 as a history major but, his outstanding work in the drawing class of Professor James Wells, not only afforded him to be an art major, but justified full scholarship status. It was Professor Porter, one of the 73 Negro artists in the trailblazing 1930 Harmon Foundation show, at the U.S. National Museum, who then urged him to switch to art history: “you just can’t afford to be an artist, you must also show the world what our people have contributed”. . . .

Please read the full essay here.

Image: David C. Driskell, Chieftain's Chair, 1966. Oil and collage on canvas, 34 x 30 3/4 in. (86.4 x 78.1 cm). Howard University Gallery of Art, 66.4.P. © David C. Driskell. Source: East City Art / Brentwood Arts Exchange.

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