Collection: James Denmark

James Denmark (b. 1936) was raised in a family of southern artists in segregated Winter Haven, Florida during the 1930s and 40s. He was a self-taught artist from an early age as his entire family were artists in some fashion. His grandmother was an adept quilter and wire sculptor, his grandfather was a noted bricklayer who incorporated unique designs with his work and his mother had an astute aesthetic for detail in interior design.

He achieved his BFA while attending the Florida Agriculture and Mechanical University in Tallahassee where he met the esteemed art historian Samella Lewis. She exposed him to many prominent Black artists… as Lewis became the first African American to convene the National Conference of African American Artists at the university in 1953.

Denmark then moved to New York City attending Pratt Institute of Fine Art, achieving a master’s degree in Fine Art. During this period, he studied under Jacob Lawrence who had a profound influence on his work and introduced him to Romare Bearden who in time turned out to be his biggest influence. After Pratt, Denmark went under a stylistic transition experimenting in “Collage” which he then continued for the next fifty years.

This improvisational medium enabled him to trust his intuitive flow in developing his unique identifiable style. Denmark’s use of women throughout his work speaks of his respect of elevating the beauty of “Black Womanhood” along with his repeating themes of love and family. His compositions are everlasting and universal, using handmade papers, fabrics, and various objects all with an eclectic sense of design within each element. 

Denmark has had over sixty one-man exhibitions and his level of acclaim is reflected by his work represented in such collections as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Fine Art in Boston, The Brooklyn Museum, The San Francisco Museum of Art and the High Museum in Atlanta.

Following in Romare Bearden’s footsteps, Denmark is the only other African American collagist that has accomplished such a high level of acclaim. We believe the importance of Denmark’s work has yet to be recognized to its fullest extent.