Oil on canvas
Framed: 39 × 47 × 1 3/4 in. (99.06 × 119.38 × 4.45 cm)
Unframed: 32 1/8 × 40 in. (81.6 × 101.6 cm)

Chicago-based painter Archibald Motley gained prominence as an artist of the Harlem Renaissance—a celebration of African American art, literature, and music in the decades between the World Wars—and extended this movement’s reach beyond New York City. With the group of walking figures at lower right, Town of Hope is a painterly evocation of the era’s Great Migration, in which six million African Americans fled the rural South for better lives in northern cities such as New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Buffalo, and Detroit. The otherworldly spectral greens, the seemingly vengeful clouds, and the carefully placed trio of birds— a sign of the holy trinity—suggest that the exodus is divinely mandated. The figures’ white farming shirts with wide collars symbolize the agricultural lives they are leaving, while the leaning stances suggest the arduousness and weariness of the task.

Signed and dated lower left: "A. J. Motley, Jr./1927"
J. Harwood and Louise B. Cochrane Fund for American Art
"Extra Ordinary: Magic, Mystery, and Imagination in American Realism", Georgia Museum of Art, Athens, GA, April 26 -June 13, 2021, and then long-term loan through January 15, 2022

"Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist," Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, NC, January 30–May 11, 2014; Amon Carter Museum of American Art, Fort Worth, TX, June 14–September 7, 2014; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Los Angeles, CA, October 19, 2014–February 1, 2015; Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, IL, March 6–August 31, 2015; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, October 2, 2015–January 17, 2016.

"Summer Show of Oil Paintings and Drawings by American and Foreign Artists"
Brooklyn Museum, New York, June 16–October 3, 1932.

3 in 30: What does freedom look like?

In recognition of the upcoming Juneteenth Holiday, join VMFA Educator, Karen Getty, as she explores three works of art, all centered on the theme of "freedom," and how artists choose to represent it.

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