Charles White in his studio; unknown photographer. Image courtesy Charlotte Sherman, Director, Heritage Gallery, Los Angeles, CA.

Charles White was born in Illinois in 1918. He undertook artistic training at the Art Institute of Chicago and at the Art Students League in New York, and also spent some time at the Taller Grafica in Mexico. Though White enjoyed working in print and created the lithographs Portrait and Exodus II at Gemini Ltd in 1966, he is most widely recognised for his mural work, in particular the Hampton University mural The contribution of the negro to American democracy, painted in 1943.

As an African–American, much of White’s work was concerned with furthering the status of his people and questioning the racial divide in American society.
Emilie Owens

Further reading


Born, Chicago, Illinois, United States of America

Attends the School of the Art Institute of Chicago; employed by the WPA Federal Works Project, New York to paint mural, The contribution of the Negro to American democracy

First solo exhibition at Paragon Studios, Cincinnati, Ohio

Teaches at Southside Community Center, Chicago

Receives award at American Negro Expo; receives commission for Chicago Public Library; exhibition, Howard University, Washington, DC

Receives Julius Rosenwald Foundation Fellowship; exhibition, Art Institute of Chicago; moves to New York, studies at Art Student’s League; first of four solo exhibitions at ACA Gallery, New York City, New York

Included in exhibitions, Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Massachusetts; Brooklyn Museum, New York City

Teaches at George Washington Carver School, New York City

Receives Julius Rosenwald Foundation Fellowship

Teaches at Howard University, Washington, DC

Solo exhibition, at San Francisco Museum of Art, California; receives Edward Alford award

Moves to Mexico; studies at Taller de Gráfica Popular, Mexico City

Moves to California

Receives National Institute of Arts and Letters Grant; wins prize from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City

Receives Childe Hassam Award; begins teaching at Otis Art Institute, Los Angeles, California and continues in this position until his death

Included in exhibition, First world festival of Negro arts, Senegal; completes editions of Portrait and Exodus II at Gemini Ltd., Los Angeles

Illustrates Four took freedom (Doubleday: New York), included in exhibition at Palace of Culture, Warsaw, Poland

Included in exhibitions, at Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City; Hermitage Museum, Leningrad, USSR; Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo, Norway; The Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow, USSR; illustrates Black history,(Doubleday: New York); receives City Council Award, Los Angeles

Awarded Honorary Doctorate from Columbia University, New York City

Included in exhibition, at La Jolla Museum of Art, California; included in exhibition, Five famous black artists, Boston Museum of Fine Arts; undertakes fellowship atTamarind Lithography Workshop, Los Angeles

Exhibition, at Whitney Museum of American Art, New York City; included in exhibition, Three graphic artists, at Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Charles White died in Los Angeles, California

Barbara Delano © Tyler Graphics Ltd., revised Kate Buckingham, 2006
This chronology provides an overview of selected biographical information, major solo and group exhibitions held within the artist's own lifetime.

Further information will be added to this site as the National Gallery proceeds with its research and documentation.

Last updated January 2017