Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
ARCHIBALD MOTLEY JR.
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond has recently acquired works of art by Archibald Motley Jr., Sanford Biggers and David Drake. Growing the museum’s collection of African American art has been a major focus of the museum’s acquisition strategy since 2015. Museum director Alex Nyerges says,“thevirginia Museum of Fine Arts is committed to establishing a leadership role in the collecting and display of African American art.these three works are a significant step toward that goal and represent three distinct periods in African American history as well as important works of art that will delight and inspire our visitors for generations to come.”
Motley’s 1927 painting Town of Hope is considered to be a masterwork by the artist. Motley was not a prolific painter, and his works are not only desirable because of their rarity, but also because they explore African American life between the World Wars.
“The painting depicts a group of figures departing a small town and walking wearily into a verdant landscape,” explains Dr. Leo G. Mazow, curator and head of American art at VMFA. “The otherworldly, spectral greens and seemingly vengeful clouds with three birds—a sign of the holy trinity—suggest that this exodus is divinely mandated.we are thrilled to add such an important masterpiece to our collection of American painting.” The piece will be installed alongside works from Edward Hopper,thomas Hart Benton and Eldzier Cortor, becoming one of the centerpieces of the museum’s mid-20th-century American art gallery.
Archibald Motley Jr. (1891-1981), Town of Hope, 1927. Oil on canvas. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts; J. Harwood and Louise B. Cochrane Fund for American Art.