William Hawkins has grown up in a farm in Kentucky, but he spent the most part of his life in Ohio, after running away a wedding supposed to legitimize a disapproved pregnancy in 1916. William Hawkins seems to have lived several lives: horses trainer, truck driver, procurer and junkman, but especially painter. Indeed in the 1930s he begins to represent animals and urban landscapes on plates of Masonite and plywood and cheap materials, like remains from industrial paint, which he spreads with a simple brush. He frequently uses sawdust or glitter, which he mixes to the paint to give it some texture and also proceeds to collages of images and papers from magazines or books. If his choices go to animals and buildings, he is also interested by religious topics and popular imaging inspired by media. His works are as surprising as unexpected, filled with symbolism, supported by a palette of lively colors, and writings repeating his name in a heady way, the place and date of his birth « WILLIAM.L.HAWKINS.BORN.KY.JULY.27.1895 » like an ID card or a passport for somewhere else.
In 1981, the artist Lee Garrett, Hawkins’ neighbor discovers his work and decides to encourage its distribution. He presents him to the New York gallery-owner, Roger Ricco, who will represent Hawkins until he dies in 1990.Seven years later, the Museum of American Folk Art organises a retrospective of his work which is part of big American museum collections today, like in the High Museum or the American Folk Art Museum. William Hawkins is considered as one of the biggest self-taught African-American artists of his generation.
the museum of everything, mona (museum of old and new art), berriedale, australia, from june 10th, 2017, to april 2nd, 2018.
great and mighty things: outsider art from the sheldon and jil bonovitz collection, philadelphia musuem of art, philadelphia, 2013.
accidental genius: art from the anthony petullo collection, milwaukee art museum, milwaukee, 2012.
the museum of everything, pinacoteca giovanni e marella agnelli, turin, 2010.
william hawkins : the drawings in context, springfield OH museum of art, 2001.
william hawkins born july 27, 1985, american folk art museum, new york, 1997.
19th and 20th-century afro-american artists, philadelphia museum of art, philadelphia, 1992.
william hawkins, ginza art space, shiseido corporation, tokyo, 1991.
william hawkins, columbus museum of art, columbus, ohio, 1990.
PERCY Ann, Cara Zimmerman, Great and Mighty Things: Outsider Art from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection, Philadelphia Museum of Art & Yale University Press, Hartford, 2013.
Exhibition catalogue, Accidental Genius: Art From the Anthony Petullo Collection, Milwaukee Art Museum, Milwaukee, 2012.
CONGDON Kristin G., Kara Kelley Hallmark, American Folk Art: A Regional Reference, Calif, Santa Barbara, 2012.
Exhibition catalogue, The Museum of Everything, Pinacoteca Giovanni e Marella Agnelli & Electa, Turin/Milan, 2010.
ARNETT William, Paul Arnette, Souls grown deep: African American vernacular art of the South, vol. 2, Tinwood, Atlanta, 2001.
PATTERSON Tom, Contemporary folk art: treasures from the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Waston-Guptill Publications, New York, 2001.
MARESCA Franck, Roger Ricco, William Hawkins: Paintings, Knopf, New York, 1997.
HARTIGAN Lynda R., Andrew L. Connors, Made with Passion: The Hemphill Folk Art Collection in the National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, 1990.
METCALF Eugene, Gary Joseph Schwindler, Contemporary American Folk, Naive, and Outsider Art: Into the Mainstream?, Miami University Art Museum, Oxford, Ohio, 1990.
ROSENAK Chuck, Jan Rosenak, Museum of American Folk Art Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century American Folk Art and Artists, Abbeville, New York, 1998.
SCHWINDLER Gary J., “William L. Hawkins: Myth in the Making?”, Dialogue, juillet-août, 1988.
SPRIGGS Lynne, Joanne Cubbs, Lynda Roscoe Hartigan et al., Let it shine: self-taught art from the T. Marshall Hahn Collection, High Museum of Art, Atlanta, 2001.
YELEN Alice Rae, Passionate Visions of the American South: Self-taught Artists from 1940 to the Present, New Orleans Museum of Art, New Orleans, 1993.