Little is know about the life and works of James S. Aiken, however, a surviving letter from a former acquaintance provides some details about the artist. Mr. Elton C. Fax was an elderly man, vague in memory when he wrote a letter to the Smithsonian Institution trying to offer some information about the unknown painter. Fax does recall Aiken attending two WPA (Works Progress Administration) Life Drawing classes at the Harlem Community Art Center during their friendship. The title of this work and his use of a seated model suggest that Aiken's did in fact attend WPA drawing classes. It also places Aiken in New York somewhere between 1937 and 1942 because those were the years the center was functional. This would have been a very exciting time for Aiken with the energy of the Harlem Renaissance inspiring Black artists to travel to the budding arts mecca.
James Aiken Collection, Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution, transferred from the National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution.