John Kelly Fitzpatrick (aka J. Kelly Fitzpatrick)
North America, American, Alabama
41 7/8 in. x 49 3/8 in. (106.36 cm x 125.41 cm)
Medium and Support:
Oil on canvas
Gift of the artist
"Negro Baptising" is one of the first paintings acquired by the museum, donated by Fitzpatrick, who was a member of the first board of directors and a teacher in the affiliated art school. Like many of his works, it depicts an activity he witnessed in the local rural black community, in this case a traditional river baptism.
Fitzpatrick made no attempt to individualize the figures in this painting; they are carriers of the brilliant sparking color generated by the intense Southern sun, symbolizing the sympathetic relationship between man and environment. The friezelike sweep of forms along the riverbank and across the bridge sets up a gentle rhythm, almost lyrically joyful, mirroring the spiritual elation and harmonies of the Negro spirituals that would have accompanied such a ceremony. The painting mirrors the artist’s own relationship to the South and its people—his respect for the integrity of the local cultures set against the timeless beauty of a land he knew and loved so well.
American Paintings from the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, 2006, cat. no. 70, p. 172.