Bill Traylor Best Books and Series:

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Birth Date: 1 April 1854
Birth Place: Benton
Known as: | William Traylor |
Sex: male
Birth date: 1 April 1854
Birth place: Benton
Death date: 23 October 1949
Death place: Montgomery
Death manner:
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Place of burial: None
Time period: None
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All languages: | English |
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Ethnic groups: | African Americans |
Socials: | enslaved person |
Movements: | outsider art |
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Also known as: | William Traylor |
Native name: Bill Traylor (English)
Birth name: None
Married name: None
Family name: | Traylor |
Official name: None
Copyright: copyrights on works have expired
Citizenship: | United States of America |
Medical conditions:
Net worth: None
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In works:
Described by: | National Gallery of Art Library Vertical Files | | St. James Guide to Black Artists | | Metropolitan Museum of Art Constituent Database |
Work period start: None
Work period end: None
Work locations:
Fields of work: | art of painting | | drawing | | outsider art |
Occupation: | painter | | artist | | sharecropper | | folk artist | | gouache painter | | drawer |
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Bill Traylor Biography and Interesting Facts

William Traylor (April 1, c. 1853 – October 23, 1949) was an African-American self-taught artist from Lowndes County, Alabama. Born into slavery, Traylor spent the majority of his life after emancipation as a sharecropper. It was only after 1939, following his move to Montgomery, Alabama, that Traylor began to draw. At the age of 85, he took up a pencil and a scrap of cardboard to document his recollections and observations. From 1939 to 1942, while working on the sidewalks of Montgomery, he produced nearly 1,500 pieces of art. While Traylor received his first public exhibition in 1940, it was not until 30 years after his death that his work finally began to receive broader attention, in the late 1970s. Recent acceptance of Traylor as a significant figure of American folk and modern art has been founded on the efforts of Charles Shannon, as well as the evolving tastes of the art world. Shannon, who first encountered Traylor's work in 1940, brought Traylor to the attention of the larger art world. Traylor now holds a central position in the fields of "self-taught" and modern art.


Bill Traylor was born in April 1853, in Benton, Alabama. His parents, Sally (1815–1880) and Bill Calloway (1805–1860+), were slaves on the plantation of George Hartwell Traylor (1801–1881), a white cotton grower. Bill had five siblings: Liza (1837), Henry (1845), Frank (1846), Jim (1847), and Emet (1854).For young Traylor, the mid-1860s marked a period of radical personal and economic change. In 1865, Traylor witnessed the Confederacy’s loss to the Union. This social and political rupture was compounded by the death of his father sometime between 1860 and 1866. While the end of the war ensured his legal emancipation, Traylor remained entrapped in the economic structures of the South's Jim Crow laws. He continued to work on the plantation, but now as a sharecropper. While documenting the details of Traylor's early life remains difficult, scholars have noted that he fathered a number of children over his lifetime. In 1884, Traylor started a family with Larisa Dunklin (1872–). By 1887, they had had three children: George, Pauline, and Sally. By 1898, the couple had five more children: Rueben, Easter, Alice, Lillian, and an unnamed "child". In 1887, Traylor fathered Nettie from another relationship. Additionally, in the late 1890s, he took a second wife, Laura Williams (1870-). The couple had five children: Clement, Will, Mack, John Henry, and Walter. In 1902, Traylor had a son named Jimmie with another woman. Later in life, Traylor was quoted as mentioning that "he raised twenty-odd children."In 1909 Traylor was farming in Montgomery County and in 1928 he left for the capital city of Montgomery. Explaining his moves, Traylor later remarked: "My white folks had died and my children had scattered." For 75-year-old Traylor, it would prove to be a challenging new beginning, but he rented a room and later a small shack, and found work to support himself. Sever ... Read full biography