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William Tolliver

William Tolliver, American (1951-2000)


William Tolliver was born in 1951, in Vicksburg, Mississippi, is the second oldest of fourteen children. Truly a rags-to-riches story, William, reared in abject poverty, had none of the advantages most people take for granted. Lacking both education and art supplies, and with little encouragement from his environment, the gifted Tolliver had to make do with what he could teach himself from books at the public library. Now a veritable master of all media, William Tolliver’s successful career bears witness to the fact that talent can and will triumph over the worst odds.


Tolliver is a versatile artist who handles figure studies, portraits, human interest situations, landscapes, and semi-abstracts equally well. His Mastery of color, harmony, and design is unmatched in the art world. He is at home in every painterly medium and uses a diversity of styles, all of which are polished and bear the unmistakeable stamp of his personality.


His works are reminiscent rather than messege oriented, often reflecting experiences from his Mississippi childhood. Recurrent themes in Tolliver’s art are people working and living---stevedors, farmers, cotton pickers, women embracing their children, and people playing musical instruments. He Portrays his subjects with a pride and dignity that heretofore has been uncommon among modern artists.


William Tolliver has been considered by many to be very likely the next great African American artist in the likeness of Romare Bearden and Jacob Lawrence. As a self taught artist, it is amazing the he has been able to master whatever he attempts.

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