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Artist Profile: William S. Carter

William S. Carter (b. 1909, d. 1996) was an abstract, landscape, still-life and figurative painter from St. Louis, Missouri. Carter began painting as a young boy, and moved to Chicago in 1930 to attend the School of the Art Institute, after being barred from enrolling in racially segregated art schools in Missouri. Having difficulty paying his tuition, Carter eventually earned his BFA from the University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign. He taught at the South Side Community Art Center in the late 1930’s and early 1940’s. While there he contributed designs for costumes, decorations and posters for the Artists and Models Ball fundraisers. Carter also studied art at the South Side Settlement House and worked as a substitute art teacher. His work was included in the American Negro Exhibition in Chicago (1940), the first all African African exhibition in the U.S. and his painting Study in Grey won first prize in the watercolor section. Carter was also included in Allain Locke’s book, "The Negro in Art," a survey of African American artists. Carter continued painting until he passed, working in his apartment in a senior living facility on Chicago’s northside.


A colorful, abstract painting of three figures, whose facial features are mostly missing or just summarized by shadow, stand in a row looking forward. Their clothing, as is the background, is mostly drawn using large geometric blocks, but seems to be suggesting a kind of formal wear with large coats, hats, bags, and high heels.
William S. Carter, Three Figures, (c. 1958)

A highly abstracted and atmospheric painting of a figure, or possibly many figures, made up of small, tightly interlocking geometric shapes of bright warm colors against a darker, cooler colored background. Emerging from the patterns and shapes are recognizable features like a small chin and mouth, an arm, a hip, and what could be a long billowy dress.
William S. Carter, County Fair, (c. 1950)

A highly abstracted and flattened painting of a band of musicians. Through sharp lines of tightly interlocking and complicated geometry, emerges shapes that resemble faces, instruments, hands, and legs. William S. Carter, Jazz Musicians, (c. 1945)
RUCKUS, 2018-2023
Louisville, KY