Writing Ideas for Funeral Procession by Ellis Wilson
from Louisville art teacher Patrick Robertson, who also provided a model art project and questions for students to use with the Ellis Wilson documentary
About Funeral Procession (c. 1950) and Ellis Wilson (1899-1977)
Although Ellis Wilson won national acclaim in the art world during the 1930s and ’40s, the Mayfield, KY artist is relatively unknown in his hometown and home state. Wilson, an African American, was born in a section of Mayfield known as the Bottom. He was one of six children. His father, Frank, was a barber and an amateur artist. Ellis acknowledged that his artistic talents came from his father.
When he was younger, Ellis held odd jobs to help with the family bills. Once he had a job working as a janitor in a dress shop. One day Ellis drew a portrait, using cleaning soap, on the store window. People passing by enjoyed looking at the drawings, so the store owner encouraged Ellis to do a new drawing each week.
Funeral Procession is Wilson’s best-known painting thanks to its appearance in an episode of The Cosby Show in 1985. In the show, Dr. Huxtable hung the painting over the mantel in the living room, where it stayed for the rest of the series.
- What is going on in the painting? How can you tell?
- What is the weather like in the painting? Does the weather affect the mood of the painting? How?
- How has the artist used repetition in the painting? Explain.
- Imagine you knew the person who had died, and you were standing in line to pay your respects. What are some of the things you would be thinking about? What kinds of conversations would you hear from the other mourners? Write your assumptions in the form of a dialogue.
More Writing Ideas
- Using Ellis Wilson’s paintings Two Mothers and Woman Sweeping, describe and analyze the artist’s style based on the elements and principles of design (line, shape, form, contrast, etc.). Use at least three of the elements that are common to the two paintings.
- The Harlem Renaissance was a time of special achievement for African-American artists in a variety of genres. Compare the rebirth of artistic development in the African-American community with that of the Italian Renaissance. What were the end results of the two movements? What are the similarities and differences between the two? Give examples of each.