Bill Traylor. Arched Drinker. c. 1939–42

Bill Traylor Arched Drinker c. 1939–42

  • Not on view

The articulated silhouette and fluid monochrome wash of Arched Drinker embody the idiosyncratic poetic vision and unselfconscious technique of this self-taught artist. Traylor's single figures, or more complex scenes in which he weaves figures, architecture, and other motifs into intricate patterns, show an acute observation, a visionary imagination, and a deftness of execution that are altogether astounding. Whereas some of Traylor's motifs may appear somewhat folkloric, others translate into an exuberant expression and sophisticated invention comparable to the more studied naïveté found in the works of Paul Klee or Jean Dubuffet, for example. These mainstream artists and others have long been inspired by the freshness and authenticity of expression of artists such as Traylor.

Born into slavery in Benton, Alabama, Traylor practiced his art only during a three-year period, after the age of eighty-five. His initial mediums were watercolor and pencil, later expanded to include charcoal and poster paint; his supports were pieces of discarded cardboard. Traylor's subject matter was the street life of downtown Montgomery, observed from his makeshift sidewalk studio (a crate and a table), where he produced between 1,200 and 1,500 whimsical drawings.

Publication excerpt from The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 158.
Watercolor and pencil on board
14 x 13 3/4" (35.6 x 35 cm)
Gift of Marie-Josée and Henry R. Kravis
Object number
Drawings and Prints

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