Oil on composite board
30.5" X 29.25"
Aaron Douglas Collection, Amistad Research Center
Tulane University, New Orleans, LA
In a review of an exhibit of Ellis Wilson’s Haitian paintings, the New York Times noted: “His intense colors and simple outlines invest his figures with almost heroic proportions and great simple dignity.”
Funeral Procession is Wilson’s best-known painting, thanks to its appearance in the plot of an episode of The Cosby Show in 1985, during the second season of the long-running series. In the program, Mrs. Huxtable acquires the painting—which is ostensibly by her “great-uncle Ellis”—at auction, paying $11,500. At the end of the episode, Dr. Huxtable hung the painting over the living-room mantel, where it would stay for the duration of the series.
In real life, the most Ellis ever got for a painting was about $300. But the Cosby mention did spark a revival of interest in the artist, who had died in obscurity eight years earlier.