Lucas Museum Bought Robert Colescott's "George Washington Carver Crossing the Delaware"
|Robert Colescott, George Washington Carver Crossing the Delaware: Page From an American History Textbook, 1975|
The Lucas Museum of Narrative Art has announced that it was the buyer of Robert Colescott's George Washington Carver Crossing the Delaware: Page From an American History Textbook. The painting was auctioned at Sotheby's New York on May 12 for a record $15.3 million.
Measuring 78 1/2 by 98 1/4 inches, George Washington Carver is Colescott's best-known image and has been extensively exhibited and published. The sellers, St. Louis collectors Robert and Lois Orchard, had owned the work almost since its creation. A burlesque of Emanuel Leutze's George Washington Crossing the Delaware (1851), it replaces the white males with boisterous African-American stereotypes, among them a bare-bottom Aunt Jeminia. Uncle Ben mans an oar as scientist (and artist) George Washington Carver stands. As Colescott said, "What I did was to take something that is admirable, mess it up, and make you question everything that the artwork stood for."
Easy to miss: Colescott said this painting was one of the few depictions of a blow job in art.
For some time the Lucas has been acquiring African-American art. It has works by Archibald Motley, Jacob Lawrence, Romare Beardon, Gordon Parks, and Carrie Mae Weems, but the Colescott is by far the most significant (and expensive) object. Following an unsuccessful bid to purchase a Diego Rivera mural, it demonstrates that the Lucas is now willing to spend eight-figure sums for figurative works by 20th-century artists who are not named Norman Rockwell.
The Lucas Museum is planning to open in 2023.