Harlem Street Scene

by Charles Henry Alston

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Artist Statement

Created by Charles Henry Alston in the late 1930s, Harlem Street Scene packs all the exuberance and abundance of Harlem culture into one moment of a regular day. Men and women sport the latest fashions, businesses advertise their wares, and a small child stands cozily bundled at their mother’s side—all on just a single street corner. Harlem Street Scene captures the vibrant vitality of the community Alston called home.


In 1935, Alston became the first African-American supervisor to work at the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project. While there, he focused on mastering his signature portraiture techniques. While remaining highly detailed and realistic, the intensity and angularity of Alston’s faces show an early leaning towards abstraction, a style that became paramount to his decorated career.

Why We Love It

"Alston not only pushed the boundaries of printmaking, but deployed his art to portray Black life in America. His works for the WPA feature black sharecroppers, city scenes, unemployment lines, laborers, children in parks, industry, and social issues like poverty and lynching. This is what makes his art remarkable; he not only experimented with the technology around image-making, but used his innovation to provide a new perspective on race, class, and society. He used the lithograph to pay homage to the Harlem Renaissance, but also to expand the imagination of his audience" ... Read more from Gerald Jean-Baptiste on the blog! 

Details

+ Limited-edition, exclusive to 20x200
+ Museum quality: archival inks, 100% cotton rag paper unless noted
+ Handcrafted custom-framing is available

Our quoted dimensions are for the size of paper containing the images, not the printed image itself. We do not alter the aspect ratio, nor do we crop or resize the artists’ originals. All of our prints have a minimum border of .5 inches to allow for framing.

Medium:

Museo Portfolio Rag

Edition Structure:
10"x8" | edition of 10
14"x11" | edition of 200
20"x16" | edition of 50
24"x20" | edition of 10
40"x30" | edition of 2

Charles Henry Alston

Born in Charlotte, NC, Charles Henry Alston (1907-1977) showed a strong interest in art as early as age five, creating clay sculpture and copying sketches from his older brother’s drawings. After moving to Harlem with his family in 1915, Alston began drawing cartoons and became the art editor for his high school magazine. After graduation with a Master’s from Columbia University, Alston’s career soared. In the 1930s and 40s, he illustrated for magazines such as Fortune, The New Yorker, and Melody Maker and designed album covers and book covers for stars such as Duke Ellington and Langston Hughes.  In 1935,... Read More
Alston became the first African-American supervisor to work for the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project. While there, Alston co-founded the Harlem Artists Guild with fellow artist, Augusta Savage, aiming to increase equality in WPA art programs and fund more black artists. Throughout his career he remained dedicated to teaching and to the cultural enrichment, improved education, and equality in his beloved Harlem community. Also a talented painter and sculptor, Alston designed murals for Harlem Hospital, Golden State Mutual, and the American Museum of Natural History, and in 1990 his bronze bust of Martin Luther King Jr. became the first image of an African-American to be displayed in the White House.
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