Purvis Young
American artist



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Purvis Young
American artist
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Birth Date

February 04, 1943

Death Date

April 20, 2010

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The story of Purvis Young is perhaps the best outsider art story you’ve ever heard.

Young grew up in a part of Miami called Overtown, which was referred to as Colored Town during the Jim Crow era when blacks were forced into the outskirts of Miami. The town was a hub of entertainment for blacks and whites alike - a popular hangout for celebs like Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, W. E. B. Du Bois, Zora Neale Hurston, and Jackie Robinson - until white people came in and decided it would be a great place for a highway, thus destroying the entire community. The population “went from maybe 40,000 people,10 years later, to about half.” As these people were displaced, the society began to collapse and it was labeled a “ghetto.” And in comes Purvis Young…

When Young was 16 years old he dropped out of school and went to jail for three years (1961-1964) for breaking and entering. It was during this time that he taught himself how to paint. When he finally got out, he decided to paint his feelings about the status of black people in America and did until the day he died.

Purvis had filled an entire alley with his work when Richard Levine, an art collector, looked down from the interstate and saw the collection Young had made. Since then, Young has become an outsider art legend with works in some of the most prominent museums in America including the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. When commenting on how people perceive his work, Young stated, “Some people would say stuff, say I looked like Gauguin, all different artists they say I looked like. A lot of black people seen them, but they didn’t say much to me about it. Some of them said I was mad, some cursed me out, some liked it, some of them admired me, some didn’t. A friend of mine – he’s passed away now – say to me: ‘I look at your paintings but I don’t see nothing. But every time I turn around you’re in the newspaper.’” If only Damien Hirst could take a lesson from Young’s modesty, then the art world would be a better place…




  1. Raccuglia, David, and Shaun Conrad. PURVIS OF OVERTOWN. Overtown, Florida: Souls Grown Deep Foundation, 2006. film.
  2. Weber, Bruce. "Purvis Young, A Self-Taught Artist, Dies At 67". N.p., 2010. Web. 26 May 2017.
  3. Cascone, Sarah. "The Rubells Show Purvis Young At The Albion - Artnet News". artnet News. N.p., 2015. Web. 26 May 2017.

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Purvis Young

Purvis Young (February 4, 1943 – April 20, 2010) was an American artist from the Overtown neighborhood of Miami, Florida. Young's work, often a blend of collage and painting, utilizes found objects and the experience of African Americans in the south. Young gained recognition as a cult contemporary artist, with a collectors' following including Jane Fonda, Damon Wayans, Jim Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, and others. In 2006 a feature documentary titled Purvis of Overtown was produced about his life and work. His work is found in the collections of the American Folk Art Museum, the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the High Museum of Art, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and others. In 2018, he was inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Purvis Young.