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Southern Landscape (Southern Flood)

At the time that he painted Southern Landscape (Southern Flood), about 1939, Eldzier Cortor was one of a number of rising young African American artists who had received their training at the Art Institute of Chicago and began their careers as employees of the Federal Art Project of Illinois, under the auspices of the Depression-era Works Progress Administration (WPA). Already committed to a Realist style and to African American subjects, Cortor was on this way to the Georgia Sea Islands when he was inspired to paint this image of a languid young couple picnicking before the backdrop of a valley that has been flooded to construct a hydroeletric dam. Cortor endowed the muscular figures with a calm stoicism, modeling their facial features on the fixed and powerfully planar forms of African masks. When asked to comment on the painting recently, the artist stated, "[It] was created from my feelings in the face of devastation, and the two figures represent youth with hope." Cortor exhibited this work in a number of pivotal exhibitions of African American art in the 1940s, including one entitled The Negro Artist Comes of Age which toured to the Brooklyn Museum in 1945.


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