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Image of Woman with Bird

Bill Traylor
American, 1853–1949

Woman with Bird

about 1940–1942

Object Type: Drawing
Creation Place: North America, American, Alabama
13 3/8 in. x 7 5/16 in. (33.97 cm x 18.57 cm)
Medium and Support: Watercolor and graphite on cardboard
Accession Number: 1982.0004.0007

Credit Line: Gift of Charles and Eugenia Shannon

A straight edge, pencils, poster paints, and cast-off paper or cardboard constitute the rudiments of Traylor’s art. He began by drawing geometric shapes, and then filled in the outlines with pencil or paints. The cardboard ground usually absorbed the paint, preserving the free-spirited strokes with which it was applied and creating subtle variations in color.

"Woman with Bird" conveys Traylor's close observation of people, and particularly his love of showing distinctions of class and occupation conveyed by clothing or accessories. The artist was fond of bright color and of making patterns by use of colored marks. The brilliant orange blouse and the pattern of the woman's skirt are indicators of her youth and stylishness. Although his ability to portray the woman's anatomy was limited, he gives her a distinctive presence by showing her in motion (taking a following step forward with her right foot), and by focusing her attention and ours on the small bird that perches on her hand. Her delicacy of figure is complemented by the elegant curves of the bird's body, tail, and beak, which repeat the curves of her head and face.

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