OVER THE PAST YEAR, an “African American Art” wall calendar has featured a succession of 19th and 20th century artists, each month showcasing works by William H. Johnson, Robert S. Duncanson, and James A. Porter, among others. Expressing support for Angela Davis, Charles White‘s “Love Letter” (1971) presided over October and this month Laura Wheeler Waring‘s “Portrait of a Lady” (circa 1945), which depicts artist Alma Thomas, is a commanding presence. Soon David Driskell will have a turn (“Dancing Angel,” 1974) representing December.

All of these paintings are from the collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and are included a 2019 calendar published by Pomegranate Communications. For 2020, the company is producing another African American art calendar, this time in collaboration with the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.


African American Art 2020 Wall Calendar/National Gallery of Art, Published by Pomegranate Communications. Shown on cover, LOIS MAILOU JONES (American, 1905-1998), “The Lovers (Somali Friends),” 1950 (casein on canvas, overall: 38.1 × 45.72 cm / 15 × 18 inches). | National Gallery of Art, From Corcoran Collection (Museum Purchase from the Estate of Thurlow Evans Tibbs, Jr.), 2015.19.215


Next year’s calendar boasts works by Aaron Douglas, Eldzier Cortor, Horace Pippin, and Archibald Motley Jr. In April, spring will be ushered in with “Pansies in Washington” (1969) by Alma Thomas. May brings Motley’s “Portrait of My Grandmother” (1922), the artist’s favorite painting. “The Lovers (Somali Friends)” (1950) by Lois Mailou Jones marks November and graces the cover of the new calendar.

Annually, publishers industry wide have generally produced just one or two calendars showcasing fine art by critically recognized African American artists. In the coming year, there is a marked increase. It may be the largest selection available in a single year. 2020 calendars are dedicated to individual artists such as White, Ernie Barnes, and Romare Bearden, and also showcase works from specific museum collections.

The expanded offerings reflect broadening institutional and market interest in African American art, which has increased exponentially in 2018 and 2019. This positive change on the calendar front is reflected at other institutions.

The Museum of Modern Art publishes “Modern Art” wall calendars annually highlighting a selection of works from its “world-class” collection. Focusing on recent history, over the past decade, the calendars have nearly exclusively presented works by white men. Just a handful of women artists have been included. Zero have been African American, male or female.

From January to December, this year’s calendar features white men, which was also the case in 2017, 2016, 2013, 2012, and 2010. Diego Rivera has been included in MoMA’s Modern Art calendar a few times over the past decade. In 2014, three women (Frida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keefe, and Alexandra Exter) integrated the male lineup. O’Keefe also appeared in 2009.


The Iconic Art of Ernie Barnes 2020 Wall Calendar, Ernie Barnes Family Trust/Published by Shades of Color, a black-owned company that specializes in gift products. Shown on cover, ERNIE BARNES, “The Sugar Shack,” 1976 (acrylic on canvas, 36 in. x 48 inches). | Collection of Jim and Jeannine Epstein, © Ernie Barnes Family Trust


When MoMA reopened in October, a fresh approach to exhibiting its collection was emphasized. More works are on view and they are more diverse in terms of the race, gender, and nationality of the artists and more representative of the depth and breadth of the museum’s overall holdings across mediums.

The museum is extending this more expansive and inclusive approach to the works displayed on its walls to the selections that appear on its 2020 wall calendars. African American artists are represented in the coming year.

MoMA’s “Modern Art 2020” calendar features Kerry James Marshall‘s “Study for Vignette” (2004) in February. The artist’s depiction of black love gives a nod to Valentine’s Day. The year concludes with “Jazz II Deluxe” (1980) by Romare Bearden in December.

Four women artists (Kahlo, O’Keefe, Tina Modotti, Florine Stettheimer) also appear on the Modern Art calendar. In addition, MoMA published “Modern Women 2020,” a calendar dedicated to women artists for the first time in the institution’s 90-year history. The slate of artists featured is diverse in terms of age, nationality, and style. The calendar includes O’Keefe, Modotti, Louise Bourgeois, Ruth Asawa, Vija Clemins, Helen Frankenthaler, Joan Mitchell, Shirana Shahbazi, Cindy Sherman, and Kiki Smith, with a self-portrait of Kahlo on the cover.

Out of a dozen artists, “Modern Women 2020” includes one African American. The month of March, when Women’s History Month is observed, features “Woman Free Yourself” (1971) by Faith Ringgold.

Over the years, calendars by various publishers have focused on a single African American artist such as Barnes, Basquiat, Bearden, White, Benny Andrews, Jacob Lawrence, Kehinde Wiley and, in 2004, Elizabeth Catlett. Where have the calendars devoted to individual black female artists been since then? CT


The Museum of Modern Art and Art Institute of Chicago co-published a fully illustrated exhibition catalog to accompany “Charles White: A Retrospective.” The publication features contributions by Kerry James Marshall, Kellie Jones, and Deborah Willis. “Something Over Something Else: Romare Bearden’s Profile Series” was recently published to accompany an exhibition currently on view at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. Published last year for children, “Between the Lines: How Ernie Barnes Went from the Football Field to the Art Gallery” recounts the artist’s inspiring life story. Recent volumes exploring the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat include the exhibition catalog “Basquiat’s Defacement: The Untold Story.” “Basquiat: By Himself” is forthcoming next month. “Alma Thomas” documents a survey exhibition organized by the Tang Museum in Saratoga and the Studio Museum in Harlem.


Charles White 2020 Wall Calendar, The Charles White Archives/Published by Pomegranate Communications. Shown on cover, CHARLES WHITE, “Sojourner Truth and Booker T. Washington (Study for Contribution of the Negro to Democracy in America),” 1943 (pencil on illustration board, 37 5/8 × 28 inches). | Collection of the Newark Museum, Purchase 1944 Sophronia Anderson Bequest Fund


(Pomegranate produced a short run of 2019 Charles White calendars to coincide with the recent traveling retrospective. The inventory quickly sold out, so Pomegranate has brought the calendar back for 2020, producing a full-run with the same images as last year’s edition.)


Jean-Michel Basquiat 2020 Wall Calendar, Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Published by Harry N. Abrams. Shown on cover, JEAN-MICHEL BASQUIAT, “In This Case,” 1983 (acrylic and crayon on canvas). | Private Collection


Art of Jonathan Green 2020 Wall Calendar, Published by Tide-Mark. Shown on cover, JONATHAN GREEN, “Summertime,” 1996 (oil on canvas, 48 x 60 inches).


National Museum of African American History and Culture 2020 Wall Calendar, NMAAHC/Universe Publishing. Shown on cover, ALMA THOMAS 1891-1978, “Spring—Delightful Flower Bed,” 1967 (oil on canvas, 39 1/2 × 39 1/2 inches / 100.3 × 100.3 cm). | © Charles Thomas Lewis, Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Gift of William J. and Brenda L. Galloway and Family. 2015.151


Showcasing highlights from the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture’s collection, this calendar features works by Alma Thomas, Minnie Evans, Amy Sherald, Nelson Stevens, Hughie Lee-Smith, Charles White, Sargent Claude Johnson, and Thornton Dial, among others. The calendar is the first to highlight artworks from the holdings of the museum, which opened in 2016.


Romare Bearden 2020 Wall Calendar, Bearden Foundation/Pomegranate Communications. Shown on cover, ROMARE BEARDEN, “One Night Stand,” 1974


Do you enjoy and value Culture Type? Please consider supporting its ongoing production by making a donation. Culture Type is an independent editorial project that requires countless hours and expense to research, report, write, and produce. To help sustain it, make a one-time donation or sign up for a recurring monthly contribution. It only takes a minute. Many Thanks for Your Support.