This essay explores Kerry James Marshall’s paintings of black artists in studio settings who are often positioned at the easel with an unfinished self-portrait. The series begins with a portrait within a portrait of a historical figure—Scipio Moorehead, Portrait of Himself, 1776 (2007)—and then turns to fictional artists (2008–10). Just when the series appears to have reached an end point, Marshall surprises with his most expansive studio scene to date—Untitled (Studio)—in 2014. In no instance does Marshall portray himself as the artist inside the painting, yet we can never forget that he is the creator of the artists we see within the paintings.
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