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Classification: Painting

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Image of Untitled (Watcher and Sleeper)

Crawford Gillis
American, 1914–2000

Untitled (Watcher and Sleeper)

about 1935–1938

Object Type: Painting
Creation Place: North America, American, Alabama
Dimensions:
16 1/16 in. x 19 7/8 in. (40.8 cm x 50.48 cm)
Medium and Support: Watercolor on paper
Accession Number: 2011.0013

Credit Line: Gift of Margaret Lynne Ausfeld


The watercolor Untitled (Watcher and Sleeper), about 1935-1938, is in both subject and style consistent with Alabama painter Crawford Gillis’s work of the mid- 1930s. During that time period, Gillis was painting subjects which illustrated the plight of the poor and disadvantaged in the South, and most particularly in Selma, during the Great Depression.

The unassuming simplicity of the figures emphasizes their universality, and places importance on their features and gestures. The seated child covers his mouth with his folded hands, suggesting a prohibition against speaking, and perhaps symbolizing a lack of "voice." His wide-eyed gaze calls attention to the sense of sight. This sense of sight, or awareness, is contrasted with the lack of awareness (or consciousness) of the sleeping child. The composition conveys the powerlessness of children, and particularly the disadvantaged. The artist saw many such children during the Depression, black and white, who lacked the opportunity for education and suffered from the effects of the dire poverty of their families. This composition suggests his understanding of the universal helplessness of the poor.

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