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Meet the Director

About the Whitney

As the preeminent institution devoted to the art of the United States, the Whitney Museum of American Art presents the full range of twentieth-century and contemporary American art, with a special focus on works by living artists. The Whitney is dedicated to collecting, preserving, interpreting, and exhibiting American art, and its collection—arguably the finest holdings of twentieth-century American art in the world—is the Museum's key resource. The Museum's flagship exhibition, the Biennial, is the country's leading survey of the most recent developments in American art.

Innovation has been a hallmark of the Whitney since its beginnings. It was the first museum dedicated to the work of living American artists and the first New York museum to present a major exhibition of a video artist (Nam June Paik, in 1982). Such important figures as Jasper Johns, Jay DeFeo, Glenn Ligon, Cindy Sherman, and Paul Thek were given their first comprehensive museum surveys at the Whitney. The Museum has consistently purchased works within the year they were created, often well before the artists who created them became broadly recognized.

Designed by architect Renzo Piano and situated between the High Line and the Hudson River, the Whitney's current building vastly increases the Museum’s exhibition and programming space, providing the most expansive view ever of its unsurpassed collection of modern and contemporary American art.

Where We Are

Solo en Inglès

Hear directly from artists and curators on selected works from Where We Are: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection, 1900–1960.

Elizabeth Catlett, Prints

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Mark Joshua Epstein: Okay, we're looking at a series of prints by the artist Elizabeth Catlett. These prints were made in 1946 and 1947, and were originally called I am the Negro Woman, and later on in her life she changed the title to The Black Woman to reflect language of the time. I'm wondering in general what you notice about these prints on the wall?

Student 1:  So it’s kind of like the Black route to freedom, they start out at slavery but they go along. You see Harriet Tubman helping them escape to the north.

Student 2: Then it kind of gets a tiny bit better for Black people, slavery is outlawed. Then I see like “colored-only” bus seats and I know that was further on, when there was segregation. It’s kind of like a timeline with pictures.

Mark Joshua Epstein: Let's focus in on this one work about Harriet Tubman. I'm wondering, what do you know about Harriet Tubman’s story?

Student 1: Well, she was a conductor on something called the Underground Railroad.

Student 2: “Underground” is also a metaphor. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s actually underground, but it sort of means secret, and she led slaves to freedom, first Pennsylvania, where slavery was not allowed. Then she had to go all the way to Canada.

Student 3: Harriet Tubman used to be a slave, working on a plantation but she escaped, but it was really daring of her to go back and help a lot of other slaves.

Mark Joshua Epstein: Elizabeth Catlett thought of a lot of the people in these prints as heroes. She mixes together American history heroes, like Harriet Tubman and normal everyday people of color who are working in domestic spaces who might be cleaning homes or working in the field. I'm wondering, why do you think she mixed those things together, these heroes that we’ve acknowledged and these everyday people?

Student 1: Well, these everyday people are also heroes, just like the heroes that we acknowledge because they are all Black, so they have to endure a lot in that time.

Mark Joshua Epstein: Do you guys have any last thoughts or questions?

Student 2: I have a question, are these the original paintings or just copies?

Mark Joshua Epstein: So this is series of linoleum prints. And it means that Elizabeth Catlett made the originalshe carved it into linoleum and then she could print it a number of times. She actually said that the reason she made prints instead of paintings, in this case, was because it made them less expensive, because there were more of them. It meant that the people who were featured in the prints could afford to buy the prints, and that was really important to her.

Mark Joshua Epstein: Okay, we're looking at a series of prints by the artist Elizabeth Catlett. These prints were made in 1946 and 1947, and were originally called I am the Negro Woman, and later on in her life she changed the title to The Black Woman to reflect language of the time. I'm wondering in general what you notice about these prints on the wall?

Student 1:  So it’s kind of like the Black route to freedom, they start out at slavery but they go along. You see Harriet Tubman helping them escape to the north.

Student 2: Then it kind of gets a tiny bit better for Black people, slavery is outlawed. Then I see like “colored-only” bus seats and I know that was further on, when there was segregation. It’s kind of like a timeline with pictures.

Mark Joshua Epstein: Let's focus in on this one work about Harriet Tubman. I'm wondering, what do you know about Harriet Tubman’s story?

Student 1: Well, she was a conductor on something called the Underground Railroad.

Student 2: “Underground” is also a metaphor. It doesn’t necessarily mean it’s actually underground, but it sort of means secret, and she led slaves to freedom, first Pennsylvania, where slavery was not allowed. Then she had to go all the way to Canada.

Student 3: Harriet Tubman used to be a slave, working on a plantation but she escaped, but it was really daring of her to go back and help a lot of other slaves.

Mark Joshua Epstein: Elizabeth Catlett thought of a lot of the people in these prints as heroes. She mixes together American history heroes, like Harriet Tubman and normal everyday people of color who are working in domestic spaces who might be cleaning homes or working in the field. I'm wondering, why do you think she mixed those things together, these heroes that we’ve acknowledged and these everyday people?

Student 1: Well, these everyday people are also heroes, just like the heroes that we acknowledge because they are all Black, so they have to endure a lot in that time.

Mark Joshua Epstein: Do you guys have any last thoughts or questions?

Student 2: I have a question, are these the original paintings or just copies?

Mark Joshua Epstein: So this is series of linoleum prints. And it means that Elizabeth Catlett made the originalshe carved it into linoleum and then she could print it a number of times. She actually said that the reason she made prints instead of paintings, in this case, was because it made them less expensive, because there were more of them. It meant that the people who were featured in the prints could afford to buy the prints, and that was really important to her.


Elizabeth Catlett, In Sojourner Truth I fought for the rights of women as well as Blacks, printed 1989. Linoleum cut, 10 1/4 × 7 3/8in. (26 × 18.7 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art; Purchase, with funds from the Print Committee 95.195  Art © Catlett Mora Family Trust/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY