Step out of your crisp blue winter evening and into the wild swing of Archibald Motley Jr.’s Nightlife; a vivid portrayal of the hip nocturnal scenes of Chicago’s Bronzeville neighborhood in the 1940’s. Drink up the burgundy hues and watch patrons converse, imbibe, and dance in diagonal strokes across the cabaret floor.

I miss dearly the Chicago nightlife. I want to teleport from these, our pandemic years, and jump right into this oil on canvas- grabbing a stool at the bar, and taking in the sweet sounds pouring from the jukebox at the right of the frame. Most of us can easily recall and genuinely relate to scenes like this one: camaraderie, community, celebration.

It has been said that Motley Jr. created his works partially to counter the routinely negative portrayal of the Black community in popular art at the time.

Nightlife is part of the permanent collection at the Art Institute of Chicago.


Nightlife – Archibald Motley, Jr. – Chicago, IL – 1943  –  (36 × 47 3/4 in.)

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