“A first generation artist of the New Negro Movement, Hale Aspacio Woodruff created paintings, prints, and murals that depict the historic struggle and perseverance of African Americans. Though some of his work, such as his Afro Emblems series, is entirely abstract, Woodruff is perhaps best known for his American scenes that combine a representational style with a modern idiom and African aesthetic.”
~ The Johnson Collection
Born on August 26, 1900 in Cairo, Illinois, Hale Aspacio Woodruff was reared in Nashville, Tennessee. When he was a small child, his mother relocated to the South after the death of Hale’s father. As a single parent, she spent many hours away from him in order to support their family. While his mother was working, he spent much of his time drawing. His great interest in art led him to serve as a political cartoonist, first for the paper of Pearl High School where he matriculated. He later worked in this capacity for an African-American newspaper in Indianapolis, to where he moved in 1919.
Hale Woodruff’s move to Indiana’s capitol city led him to study at the John Herron Art Institute. It was at this school where he first learned about African and African-American art, which would greatly impact him for the rest of his life. This inspiration became more pronounced when he met African-American art legend, William Edouard Scott. A leading illustrator, muralist and portraitist, Scott had recently returned from a visit of Europe. A leading advocate for representing Blacks more authentically and celebrating Africa Diaspora culture, Scott had an incredible influence on Woodruff.