Charles Sebree (1914-1985)

Charles Sebree, Untitled, c. 1955, mixed media on board, 8.5 x 10.5 inches, signed lower right

According to Terry Bain in the St. James Guide to Black Artists, Charles Sebree cites his uncle, John Robinson, as the primary inspiration for his interest in art. Robinson drew stick figures and cartoons in his spare time. Bain says, “the cartoon like qualitities of ‘doodling’ remain in [Sebree’s] work,” even though Sebree was formally trained at the Art Insititute of Chicago and at the Chicago School of Design. Still, his formal training is reflected in his work.

Bain goes on to say that the Chicago School of Design was formerly called the German Bauhaus School of Applied Arts and that Sebree’s work reflects the influence of the expressionists who taught there. “Influences from the Blue Rider (Der Blaue Reiter) group, which incorporated abstract or naive painting techniques, penetrated with intense color, can be seen in Sebree’s paintings, such as Village and Man in the Temple,” she said. “Influences from The Bridge (Die Burke) group, which used a more representational yet still distorted style, often modeled after African sculptural forms, can be seen in paintings such as Blue Jacket,” she added.

Sebree’s many artistic and literary friends also had some influence on his work. For example, Langston Hughes, Countee Cullen, Katherine Dunham and Eartha Kitt all were part of his world. Bain said Sebree often provided book and cover illustrations and set designs for them.

Sebree’s work is in the collections of the National Archives, Washington, D.C.; University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois; Schomburg Center, New York City; Atlanta University, Atlanta, Georgia; McBride Collection, Chicago, Illinois; and the Countee Cullen Collection, Atlanta, Georgia.