Former Slave Bill Traylor Taught Himself to be an Artist

Bill Traylor is a self-taught artist born in Alabama in a 1854.

His life spanned slavery, Reconstruction and Jim Crow- he never lived to experience any civil rights or freedoms that white Americans were handed at that time.

At the age of 82 he moved to segregated Montgomery – his first time living away from the plantation where he was born. It was there that he began to draw and paint, inspired by his observations of the people and activities of the city.

His art opens a small door into his mind that allows the viewer to experience his individual perspective of the world. Because of the time that he lived, perspectives like his are hard to come across, or are conveyed in a way that reduce black Americans’ experience into a singular narrative that diminishes individuality.

By the time he died he had created over 1000 pieces of artwork. Traylors artwork has recently been selling at Christie’s auction for $80k – $400k.

Art work by Bill Traylor is currently shown at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The first EVER retrospective of the work of an artist born into slavery. Sept 28, 2018- March 19, 2019. ***Smithsonian is currently closed during the Government shut down

Scroll down for more images of Bill Traylors artwork

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