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

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Countée Cullen

This caricature of Countée Cullen appeared in Eva Herrmann's 1929 book, On Parade: Caricatures by Eva Herrmann, edited by Erich Posselt. The book, open to this page, is on display at the National Museum of Women and the Arts in Washington, DC.
Eva Herrmann (1901—1978) was born in Munich, but spent most of her adult life as an artist in exile. Trained as a painter, she was a gifted caricaturist and was contracted by publishers for book illustration, This book of caricatures of famous people appears to be one of the few remaining examples of her work. -- NMWA
Countée Cullen wrote this note to accompany the image:
WHAT does one write about himself for an intimate biographical note of this sort? It is far more obvious what not to say than what can properly be revealed. The writing of the most intimate lyric does not assume one half the proportion of unwarranted exposure as does the bald, informative statement of one's pet adorations and aversions. Nor can one hide himself by going to his own work for succor; that must inevitably speak for itself. Those who have gone there for some knowledge of me already know that as a poet I am intensely interested in preserving my own individuality, if that can be in any way aligned with an equally strong desire to evolve out of that individuality, with its markedly racial emphasis, some one song or lyric that may help establish my belief in the subsurface kinship of human beings. There is pleasure and pain in mere living; I believe both these aspects of life are intensified when one is a Negro in a white world; and I find their feather-strict balance so even that I am often inclined to do what a poet should always shun: turn metaphysicist and claim oneness for both pleasure and pain. 


 For another look at Countée Cullen in the Portrait Gallery look here.

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