Dans un Café à Paris (Leigh Whipper)
Loïs Mailou Jones
On View: American Identities: A New Look, Modern Life, 5th Floor
When Lois Mailou Jones painted Leigh Whipper, the latter was at the height of his career as a Broadway and Hollywood actor. Within months of sitting for this portrait, Whipper would be famous for his role as Crooks in the 1939 movie adaptation of John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men. Whipper’s character—a handicapped stable hand ostracized because of his race—served to illuminate the movie’s Depressionera message that the American Dream’s promise of economic and social success was impossible.
This portrait shows Whipper as if seated at a Paris café. Jones herself had recently returned from a sabbatical in France and was teaching at Howard University in Washington, D.C. There she came under the influence of the Harlem Renaissance intellectual Alain Locke. Her portrayal of a pensive Whipper answered Locke’s call for black artists to create ennobling portrayals of African Americans.
Oil on canvas
Brooklyn Museum Fund for African American Art and gift of Auldlyn Higgins Williams and E.T. Williams, Jr.
© artist or artist's estate
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Loïs Mailou Jones (American, 1905-1998). Dans un Café à Paris (Leigh Whipper), 1939. Oil on canvas, 36 x 29 in. (91.4 x 73.7 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn Museum Fund for African American Art and gift of Auldlyn Higgins Williams and E.T. Williams, Jr., 2012.1. © artist or artist's estate
overall, 2012.1_PS6.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph, 2012
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