This work by Charles Alston depicts three figures reminiscent of African masks

Charles Henry Alston

American, 1907–1977

Family, 1953

Oil on canvas

36 x 12 inches

Signed and dated lower right

Born in Charlotte, North Carolina, Alston was the youngest of five children. His father, a respected clergyman, died when Alston was only three years old. Alston’s mother later married the uncle of Romare Bearden, and the two artists referred to each other as cousins. Soon after, the family moved to New York. The influence of African art could often be detected in Alston’s works. His subjects often were depicted with angular features, reminiscent of African masks. The themes of Alston’s paintings were relatively consistent: the blues, African and African American themes, and family. In this tall, slender canvas, Alston depicts the hierarchy of a family: the father at the top, the protective mother embracing her child, keeping the infant safe in a world where the struggle for Civil Rights was about to begin.

This work by Charles Alston depicts three figures reminiscent of African masks