This painting portrays a black woman turned three-quarters to the right and looking in that direction. Simply dressed in an orange top and blue jacket, she stands out against a solid turquoise background.

Henrietta Shore

(Toronto 1880 – San Jose, California, 1963)

 

Caribbean

about 1925

Oil on canvas

43.2 x 35.6 cm

Jeri L. Waxenberg Wolfson Collection


Judging by the title, the young black woman portrayed in Caribbean is from the Antilles. She is pictured bust-length in a Modernist style featuring bold colours, polished surfaces and simple forms. Henrietta Shore painted other portraits of black women, as well. Works of this sort done by white artists raise the issue of colonialist imagery, which tends to represent members of ethnic groups – in this case, a black woman – in standardized fashion, often with an impersonal title.


The Toronto-born painter Henrietta Shore trained extensively at institutions including the Art Students League in New York, where the American artist Georgia O’Keeffe (1887-1986) was studying at the same time. Taking an innovative approach to subject matter and paint itself, Shore developed a Modernist style that brought her great success in the 1920s. In 1923, when she and O’Keeffe exhibited concurrently in New York, Shore’s work drew most of the media coverage. For various reasons, including the artist’s self-imposed isolation in the 1930s and subsequent institutionalization, her work fell from view and remained overlooked for many years.

Private collection