Grace Evans, Portrait of a Young Black Girl
This portrait captures an African American girl in a pensive moment. Lost in thought, she seems to forget the doll cradled in her arms. With a fine bow and toy, she may have come from a family of means. Her white doll attests to the racial inequities she experienced—in the toy store, at school, on the street, and more. The gravity of the girl’s presence is all the more impressive given the work’s painterliness. Thick, loose brushstrokes suggest her expression.
Evans was one of a number of women artists working in Philadelphia in the early twentieth century. She studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) in the 1890s under William Merritt Chase and Hugh Breckenridge. She attended at the same time as Robert Henri, leader of the Ashcan School, who became famous for down-to-earth, expressive portraits of children.