These two prints are typical of the crisply outlined, but undulating, poetic style that marks the directly carved wood blocks by many artists of the period. These two images of handsome women by a well known African-American artist combine an elegant, streamlined modernism expressive of city life in the 20th century with the simple, obviously hand-cut lines of the "primitive," age-old technique of block printing. In addition, especially in Girl's Profile, the artist's use of visual references to historical African forms and craft are blended into his interpretation of the figures.
James Wells was associated with the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s and 1930s and its surge in artistic energy in all art forms from music and dance to the visual arts. Wells later became a professor at Howard University in Washington, DC, and was a major force in the Black Renaissance in arts and literature in Washington, DC.
Permanent Collection, Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum