Bill Traylor1854 - 1949
Born: April 1, 1854, Benton, Alabama
Died: October 23, 1949, Montgomery, Alabama
Bill Traylor was born a slave on the George Hartwell Traylor plantation about 35 miles outside Montgomery, AL. After the Civil War, Traylor stayed on the plantation working the land. In 1935 at the age of 82, Traylor left the farm and moved to Montgomery where he worked in a shoe factory until he was forced to quit because of his rheumatism. It was at this time that he began to do pencil drawings on cardboard. Sketching animals and people, Traylor drew the images that he saw on lively Monroe Street in Montgomery.
Charles Shannon, a white painter, met Traylor in 1939 and became his friend and supporter, providing Traylor with pencils, paints, and brushes. Shannon was also instrumental in arranging gallery shows for Traylor's work during his lifetime. He collected over 1200 of Traylor's drawings and paintings and revived interest in Traylor's work by arranging for his work to be included in the landmark exhibition, Black Folk Art in America at the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C.
Traylor's images reveal a mastery of balance in terms of opaque versus open areas and patterning versus flat color blocks. The artist used a limited color palette and preferred to work on irregular cardboard surfaces, which he incorporated into the design of his images. Traylor's work is often categorized as Folk or Outsider Art because of his self-taught and somewhat naive style.