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Singing Their Songs

Close up of Singing Their Songs

Print, divided into uneven quadrants, features stylized dark-skinned figures singing. Above a female head vocalizes toward a woman wearing a floral dress, kneeling in prayer against a red background. Below two male heads on a blue background sing toward a young man wearing a green gingham shirt.

Elizabeth Catlett, Singing Their Songs, 1992; Lithograph on paper, 23 x 18 1/2 in.; National Museum of Women in the Arts, Purchased with funds donated in memory of Florence Davis by her family, friends, and the Women's Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts; Art © Estate of Elizabeth Catlett/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Singing Their Songs
Elizabeth Catlett

Elizabeth Catlett’s art centers on the Black female experience. In her prints and many of her sculptures, she focuses on developing compositions with multiple figures.

Singing Their Songs is one of six lithographs that Catlett made to illustrate the poem “For My People,” written in 1937 by her friend, author Margaret Walker. The first line of Walker’s poem refers to Black people “everywhere/singing their slave songs repeatedly”; it also describes people kneeling in prayer. Catlett has illustrated both actions. By varying the scale of her figures and separating them into registers, Catlett suggests that these men and women represent the African American experience in different times and places.

Catlett’s figurative sculptures feature supple shapes, clean lines, and few details. She observed: “Printmaking had to do with the moment. I thought of sculpture as something more durable and timeless, and I felt that it had to be more general in the idea I was trying to express.” The intense colors, textured backgrounds, and strong patterns in Singing Their Songs demonstrate Catlett’s view of printmaking as a highly dynamic and flexible medium.

Artwork Details

  • Artist

    Elizabeth Catlett
  • Title

    Singing Their Songs
  • Date

    1992
  • Medium

    Lithograph on paper
  • Dimensions

    15 3/4 x 13 3/4 in.
  • Donor Credit

    Purchased with funds donated in memory of Florence Davis by her family, friends, and the Women’s Committee of the National Museum of Women in the Arts
  • Photo Credit

    © Estate of Elizabeth Catlett/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
  • On Display

    No