Josephine Baker

“Surely the day will come when color means nothing more than the skin tone, when religion is seen uniquely as a way to speak one’s soul, when birth places have the weight of a throw of the dice and all men are born free, when understanding breeds love and brotherhood.” —Josephine Baker

Josephine Baker (1906—1975) was an African-American singer and dancer, who was a huge sensation in Jazz Age Paris, although she was shunned in her own country. She was the first person of African descent to become a world famous entertainer and the first to star in a major motion picture (the film Zou Zou.) As an international star, she refused to perform for segregated audiences in the US. She was also a WW2 spy and was awarded military honors for her service to the French Resistance. Josephine also adopted 12 children of different nationalities. She called her family “the Rainbow Tribe,” raising them in her adopted country, France.  In all things, she fought against racial prejudice and was very influential in the American Civil Rights movement.

Artist’s notes: This is a relatively quick sketch on paper with Holbein Acrya-Guoache. I like how her eyes came out a little lopsided. I think it adds to her charm. Even in her soldier’s uniform, and thinking about the seriousness of her work with the French Resistance, she maintains a sense of comical mischief. which she certainly expressed in her cabaret acts.

 

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