Bill Traylor, born a slave in 1853, is today revered as a major American artist and is currently the subject of an extensive solo exhibition at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Between Worlds: The Art of Bill Traylor (up through March 17, 2019). Betty Cuningham Gallery, as exclusive representative of The Charles E. and Eugenia C. Shannon Trust, is pleased to present its second exhibition of the work of Bill Traylor, opening on Saturday, January 19th, 4 – 6 PM. On view will be approximately 20 works from the Shannon Trust.
In 1939, Charles Shannon, a young artist, encountered the 85-year-old Bill Traylor, seated with a pencil in his hand, in front of a blacksmith shop in Montgomery, Alabama. Intrigued, Shannon provided Traylor with encouragement and art supplies. He purchased, for modest prices, approximately 1200 works from Traylor. The works that Shannon preserved and promoted for 60 years are the basis of Traylor’s legacy today.
Fascinated by the endless inventiveness and aesthetic beauty of Bill Traylor’s work, Charles Shannon organized Traylor’s first exhibition in 1940 at New South – an arts center in Montgomery founded by Shannon and others. Traylor’s next exhibition, and his first in New York, was at the Fieldston School in 1942. Bill Traylor’s work would not be shown again until 1979-80 at R. H. Oosterom Gallery in New York. Since 1980 there have been numerous exhibitions. Particularly noteworthy in museums are 1994 – 95 - Lively Times and Events: The Drawings of Bill Traylor, Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, AL (and travelling); 1998-99 - Bill Traylor (1854 -1949) Deep Blue, Kunstmuseum, Bern, Switzerland and Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany (and travelling); 2013 - Bill Traylor, Drawings from the Collections of the High Museum of Art and the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, American Folk Art Museum, New York, NY (and travelling) and Traylor in Motion, Wonders from New York Collections, American Folk Art Museum, New York, NY; 2018 – Outliers and American Vanguard Art, National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C (and travelling); and currently Between Worlds: The Art of Bill Traylor at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC. Today, Traylor’s work can be found in museums and public collections around the world.