"A portrait is a picture in which there is just a tiny little something not quite right about the mouth." -- John Singer Sargent

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Alice Dunbar-Nelson

This 1927 portrait of Alice Dunbar-Nelson (1875-1935) by Laura Wheeler Waring hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.
"This portrait represents the network of friendships established among prominent African American women in the wake of the black women's club movement, which grew in visibility with the founding of the National Association of Colored Women in 1896. Women, including Laura Wheeler Waring and Alice Dunbar-Nelson, came together from a variety of backgrounds to combat nega­tive stereotypes and fight for basic rights. Waring, an established artist who had studied in France between the two world wars, painted Dunbar ­Nelson's portrait in Philadelphia the year she married Walter E. Waring, a Lincoln University professor. By 1927 Dunbar-Nelson was a prominent political activist and journalist and was in demand as a public speaker. The portrait exudes the confidence and self-possession of two accomplished, intellectual women whose friendship helped advance the rights of both women and African Americans." -- National Portrait Gallery
Wikipedia gives us this short biography of Alice Ruth Moore Dunbar Nelson:
"Alice Ruth Moore Dunbar Nelson (July 19, 1875 – September 18, 1935) was an American poet, journalist and political activist. Among the first generation born free in the South after the Civil War, she was one of the prominent African Americans involved in the artistic flourishing of the Harlem Renaissance. Her first husband was the poet Paul Laurence Dunbar; she then married physician Henry A. Callis; and last married Robert J. Nelson, a poet and civil rights activist."
 This photo of Alice Dunbar appeared in Paul Laurence Dunbar, Poet Laureate of the Negro Race, 1914, of which she was one of the authors.

This short poem from Feb. 16, 1921 is presumably addressed to Inez Milholland:
You! Inez!

By Alice Moore Dunbar-Nelson

Orange gleams athwart a crimson soul
Lambent flames; purple passion lurks
In your dusk eyes.
Red mouth; flower soft,
Your soul leaps up—and flashes
Star-like, white, flame-hot.
Curving arms, encircling a world of love,
You! Stirring the depths of passionate desire!

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