Albert Wells (1918-2001)

Born in Charlotte, NC, Albert Wells is best known for the works he produced as a student of Hale Woodrufi, founder and director of the art department at Atlanta University, now Clark-Atlanta University. As an art student at Morehouse Collage in the late l930‘s, Wells was one of a select group of artists who focused on the landscape of rural Georgia, known as the "Outhouse School’ — so named by a local art critic who noted the prevalence of outdoor plumbing in the pictures of Woodrufi and his circle.

At the time of the first Atlanta Annual Exhibition in 1942, in which Wells showed The Bottoms and Georgia Landscape, Alain Locke noted “Hale Woodruff and others have been developing at Atlanta University not an academic department of art but a creative school of art expression... As a group they have already made a distinct and notable contribution to contemporary art development in the south and among Negroes generally‘ (from the catalogue, Exhibition of Paintings by Negro Artists of America, Atlanta University,1942). Under the tutelage of Woodrurf, the Atlanta School included, in addition to Wells, Claude Weaver, Leroy C. Weaver, James A. Wood, Wilmer Jennings and Fred Jones, Jr.

Wells’ landscapes of the countryside and black life around Atlanta represent a kind of black Southern Regionalism that has not yet been fully examined by scholars. His works display a distinctive brushwork that is at once expressionist and constructive, and a richly chromatic palette —— all indications that he had fully mastered the principles of Woodruff's teaching. Wells‘ works were shown at the most historic and highly competitive juried exhibitions of African American art of the early 1940s: The American Negro Exposition in Chicago, 1940, and the Atlanta University Exhibitions of 1942 and 1944. His 1940 work, Georgia Winter, wasc also illustrated in Alain Locke's landmark compilation, The Negro in Art, 1940. Wells also assisted Woodruff in the execution of the Amistad Murals at Talladega College in 1939.

Albert Wells‘ career was interrupted by service in the navy during World War ll. After his return from the military, Wells began a distinguished career as a teacher in the Chicago and Gary, Indiana public schools. He died in 2001.

Dan Schulman
Chicago Curator and Art Historian