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

Friday, December 6, 2019

Lillian Evanti

This 1940 portrait of Lillian Evanti by Loïs Mailou Jones hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC.
Lillian Evanti made her operatic debut in France in 1925. Because of the racial barriers erected by American opera companies against black singers, she spent most of her early career on European stages.

Returning to America in 1932, she undertook several concert tours and was invited to appear at the White House. Singing first as a coloratura and later as a lyric soprano, Evanti's powerful voice and stage presence made her a popular success. In 1942, she helped found the Negro National Opera Company in Philadelphia and sang in several of the company's productions. During World War II, she performed for the armed-services radio, and during the later 1940s and 1950s, she served as a goodwill ambassador to
Latin America.

Evanti's portrait was painted by her friend  Loïs Mailou Jones in 1940, two years after Jones returned to Washington after studying art at the Académie Julian in Paris. Jones depicted Evanti in the role of Rosina in Rossini's The Barber of Seville.
 Lois Mailou Jones 1940

Lillian Evanti was a native Washingtonian.
Born Lillian Evans in 1890, she graduated from Howard University in 1907, and thirteen years later, moved to Europe, where her professional opportunities were not as limited by discrimination. She made her professional debut in Nice, France in 1924, and while abroad, adopted the stage name Evanti, a more European-sounding combination of her last name and that of her husband, Roy Tibbs. -- Whitehouse Historical Association

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