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Portrait of a Woman
20'' x 16''
Oil on canvas
1920

Edwin A. Harleston applied his academic artistic training to his realistic portraiture of African Americans, receiving many commissions from the distinguished upper class while also painting the working class community around him. His portraits are noted for the use of rich tones and the elegant dignity with which he represented his sitters such as well-known community figures that ranged from a church reverend to a hospital nurse. In this portrait, Harleston captures the jovial expression of a seated woman in three-quarter profile. Thought to be painted around 1920, this work portrays the subject as a “new woman,” which is underscored by her relaxed, casual style with the loose dress and her confident, independent attitude befitting the times.