Three Guitar Players

Accession Number

Three Guitar Players

Purvis Young

Artist Nationality
American (North American)

Object Creation Date
circa 1997

Medium & Support
Paint and composition board on wood

27 11/16 in x 16 in (70.33 cm x 40.64 cm);27 11/16 in x 16 in (70.33 cm x 40.64 cm)

Credit Line
Gift of The Daniel and Harriet Fusfeld Folk Art Collection

Label copy
Purvis Young
United States, 1943–2010
Three Guitar Players
circa 1997
Paint on composition board, mounted on three wood planks
Gift of the Daniel and Harriet Fusfeld Folk Art Collection, 2002/1.210
After completing a prison sentence for armed robbery in the early 1970s, Purvis Young decided that he would paint after his release, rather than “stand around” out of work. For his first project, he painted scenes of everyday life in his historically black neighborhood of Overtown (in Miami) on a variety of found materials that he then fastened on abandoned buildings; the extraordinary cycle of paintings stretched for three blocks. Throughout his long career, Young’s work drew attention to the life, vibrancy, and social problems that abound in Overtown. As Young stated, “I go outside and see people eating out of garbage cans and taking drugs. I just stand out there and take notes—drawings you know. I paint what I see, and what I see is the truth.”
(Out of the Ordinary, 2010)

Subject matter
A self-taught artist, Young was known for depicting scenes from his hometown in Florida. In this scene of three African-American banjo players, Young aimed to represent inner city life through his own interpretation of its beauty. Typically, as with this work, he painted abstracted figures on found objects to fashion scenes of urban life. This scene is at once joyful and free in its expressive style, while at the same time the muted tones reference the struggles of his poverty-stricken neighborhood of Miami.

Physical Description
At the center of the scene, there are three figures carrying instruments. Below and above, three building-tops are depicted. The central figures are painted in shades of blacks and browns, while the buildings are painted in shades of yellow, orange, beige, black and blue. The background is beige and yellow, and painted on found board and mounted on wooden planks.

Primary Object Classification

Primary Object Type

Additional Object Classification(s)
Mixed Media

Collection Area
Modern and Contemporary

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African American
cityscapes (representations)
mixed media works
self-taught artists

4 Related Resources

Folk, Self-taught, Amateur, and Visionary Art
(Part of 2 Learning Collections)
Purvis Young Essay
(Part of: Understanding Race)
PAST - Guitars
(Part of: FFW Lower Level Study Cases     )

& Author Notes

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