Art & Architecture

Between Worlds: The Art of Bill Traylor

    Foreword by
  • Stephanie Stebich
    Introduction by
  • Kerry James Marshall

A major new look at the work of one of America’s foremost self-taught artists


Oct 2, 2018
9 x 11.5 in.
244 color + 61 b/w illus.
Art & Architecture
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Bill Traylor (ca. 1853–1949) came to art-making on his own and found his creative voice without guidance; today he is remembered as a renowned American artist. Traylor was born into slavery on an Alabama plantation, and his experiences spanned multiple worlds—black and white, rural and urban, old and new—as well as the crucibles that indelibly shaped America—the Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, and the Great Migration. Between Worlds presents an unparalleled look at the work of this enigmatic and dazzling artist, who blended common imagery with arcane symbolism, narration with abstraction, and personal vision with the beliefs and folkways of his time.

Traylor was about twelve when the Civil War ended. After six more decades of farm labor, he moved, aging and alone, into segregated Montgomery. In the last years of his life, he drew and painted works depicting plantation memories and the rising world of African American culture. Upon his death he left behind over a thousand pieces of art. Between Worlds convenes 205 of his most powerful creations, including a number that have been previously unpublished. This beautiful and carefully researched book assesses Traylor’s biography and stylistic development, and for the first time interprets his scenes as ongoing narratives, conveying enduring, interrelated themes.

Between Worlds reveals one man’s visual record of African American life as a window into the overarching story of his nation.

Published in association with the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Awards and Recognition

  • Honorable Mention for the George Wittenborn Memorial Book Award, Art Libraries Society of North America
  • One of the New York Times' Best Art Books of 2018
  • A Choice Outstanding Academic Title of the Year