Hale Woodruff (1900-1980)
Hale Woodruff, a nationally known printmaker, draftsman, and painter, was a member of the Atlanta University faculty for fifteen years. During that time the Paris-trained African American artist developed a
Hale Aspacio Woodruff was born on August 26, 1900, in Cairo, Illinois, to Augusta and George Woodruff. He moved with his mother to Nashville, Tennessee, after his father died. After graduating from Nashville's Pearl High School, where he had been the cartoonist for the school newspaper, Woodruff studied at the Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Upon returning home from a four-year sojourn to France in the 1920s, Woodruff joined the faculty of Atlanta University in 1931. It was his initial venture with art instruction and made him one of the first college professors of studio art in the state of Georgia. In the course of a decade, Woodruff developed a "one-man art department," promoted a plethora of visual arts activities, and initiated the Atlanta University Art Annuals (1942-70), twenty-nine national art exhibitions for black artists.
Woodruff's early work reflects his exposure to cubism while living in France during the late 1920s and early 1930s. The urban and rural landscapes of Georgia inclined his work and that of his students toward the regionalist style popular during that era. As were several other African American artists, Woodruff was inspired by Mexican muralists like Diego Rivera, with whom he studied.
Referring to the influence of African art on the development of Western art, Woodruff stated: "This [the Art of the Negro mural] has to do with a kind of interpretive treatment of African art. . . . I've always had a high regard and respect for the African artist and his art. So this mural . . . is for me, a kind of token of my esteem for African art." The six panels convey a synthesis of the art history of non-European worlds. Also apparent are the lessons learned from Rivera, but the impact of the art of Africa is manifest in this series.
In 1946 Woodruff moved to New York, where he taught at New York University until his retirement in 1968. Woodruff died in New York City on September 6, 1980, but his impact as a teacher in the Atlanta University Center is palpable in the work of his students.
Romare Bearden and Harry Henderson, A History of African-American Artists: From 1792 to the Present (New York: Pantheon Books, 1993).
The Hale Woodruff Memorial Exhibition: Curators' Choice, essay by Helen M. Shannon (New York: Studio Museum in Harlem, 1994), exhibition catalog.
Winifred L. Stoelting, "Hale Woodruff, Artist and Teacher: Through the Atlanta Years" (master's thesis, Emory University, 1978).
William E. Taylor and Harriet G. Warkel, A Shared Tradition: Art by Four African Americans (Bloomington: Indiana University Press for the Indianapolis Museum of Art, 1996), exhibition catalog.
Tina Dunkley, Clark Atlanta University Art Galleries
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