Mending Socks

Archibald John Motley Jr. portrays his paternal grandmother, Emily Sims Motley,  in this 1924 painting. She is surrounded by objects that were important to her. Several different yet pivotal life experiences are represented through these objects, such as her being born into slavery. To the top left of the painting is a framed portrait of a white woman: Emma Sims Kittredge, the daughter of the slave owner and mistress whom Motley’s grandmother served. She was freed towards the end of the Civil War, sixty years prior to this paintings creation. This painting serves as an anomaly in Motley’s ouvre, as he typically depicts African Americans with confidence, dignity, and composure; enabling viewers to view black people with beauty and accomplishment to dispel negative stereotypes resulting from racism. While this is not to suggest that Motley’s grandmother is not depicted with said attributes, she is visibly aged with poor posture, not even looking at the viewer. A domestic portrait in nature, she is contrasted by her slave owner’s portrait above her, looking to the viewer, sitting straight with pomp and circumstance. It is possible that Motley wanted to depict a different side to African American life through his grandmother – the life after slavery where reminders of one’s former life are always lingering over them.

SKU: 3661
Creator: Archibald John Motley, Jr.
Date: 1924
Original Medium: oil on canvas
Location: Ackland Art Museum, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Archibald J. Motley Jr.

Paper SizePortrait / LandscapeUnframedFramed
Petite8x10 / 10x8$19$109
Small11x14 / 14x11$29$189
Medium16x20 / 20x16$59$279
Large22x28 / 28x22$99$389
Extra Large32x40 / 40x32$159$449