Collection 1880s–1940s

Elizabeth Catlett. I Am The Black Woman from the series The Black Woman. 1946, printed 1989 570

Linoleum cut from a series of fourteen linoleum cuts, image: 5 1/8 × 3 7/8" (13 × 9.8 cm); sheet: 10 × 8" (25.4 × 20.3 cm). Acquired through the generosity of Erin and Peter Hess Friedland, and Modern Women's Fund. © 2024 Elizabeth Catlett / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Narrator: In 1946, Elizabeth Catlett went to Mexico City to study sculpture and create prints at the Taller de Gráfica Popular, or the People's Graphic Arts Workshop. There, she created a series of prints titled The Black Woman Series.

Artist, Elizabeth Catlett: I wanted to come because I had been interested in public art since I was at Howard. And there's the mural painting and printmaking—both public art—which was very developed in Mexico.

My proposal was to do a series of paintings, sculptures, and prints of Black women and exhibit them through the South. I was trying to present "negro women," as we were called then, as what their lives really, really werer—really are. I was learning linocut in the, in the workshop. So I did them in linocut.

I wanted do something that has to do with all of us. That's what gave me some direction in art. And that's all I can base it on, is when I decided that I was going to work with the problems of Black women, when I was going to try to make people see them as beautiful, dignified, strong people instead of, as Ralph Ellison says, "invisible."

Archival audio courtesy of The National Visionary Leadership Project and the U.S. Library of Congress