Untitled (Painter)
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Kerry James Marshall fights institutional racism with the strongest weapon the art world has ever seen...color!

Mock it if you’d like, but Marshall is slowly but surely painting Black people into an art historical canon that has neglected them for hundreds of years. And he’s doing it with color. This particular portrait seems to be the replacement for Judith Leyster’s Self Portrait. Both women are classy, and highly overdressed for an afternoon of painting but this time the woman is Black. And just to accentuate that a little bit more, Marshall makes this woman’s surroundings incredibly colorful. Her (super fancy) smock has at least five different colors and her palette has even more. The only white that we see is what has not yet been filled in on the canvas and even that will be gone soon. Read into that what you will.  Another difference between these works is the “bow down b*tches” face that Marshall gave his subject. Judith’s self portrait is a little more like a bad yearbook photo.

It remains a mystery why Marshall included a paint-by-numbers canvas behind this woman. We have just so many questions about this. 1. Wouldn’t he want her talents to be proudly and pompously displayed like young Judith had done? 2. Is it even about the quality of the painting within the painting anymore? And 3. Is that Albert Einstein on the paint-by-numbers canvas? Unfortunately these questions have not yet been answered and may never be. We’ll just have to make do with our imaginations and believe in Kerry James Marshall, the defender of the down-trodden.



  1. "MCA – Collection: Kerry James Marshall, Untitled (Painter), 2009". Web. 23 June 2017.
  2. Keyser, Tom. "Artist Kerry James Marshall Explores The World Of Art In Black America". Times Union. N.p., 2011. Web. 23 June 2017.
  3. Brehmer, Debra. "How Kerry James Marshall Rewrites Art History". Hyperallergic. N.p., 2016. Web. 23 June 2017.