American Folk Art Museum Logo

Artist at 84 Years Old
Sidney McLaren (1895–1979)

Location: Jamaica

Date: 1979

Materials: Oil on cardboard

Dimensions: 15 3/4 × 13"

Credit: Gift of Maurice C. and Patricia L. Thompson

Accession Number: 2003.20.7

Photo credit: Gavin Ashworth

Add to My Collections

Description

There is a strong legacy of self-taught artists who came to their creative activities late in life, often after years in the work force. Sometimes the artist articulates a God-driven urge to create; other times it is a rediscovery of a youthful impulse. Often, older artists record themselves, representing self-images of retained virility or growing frailty. In this contemplative self-portrait, respected Jamaican artist Sidney McLaren has depicted himself in grisaille, his graying visage set against a landscape of vivid color. He signed it, “Sidney McLaren—Artist at 84 yrs. old. Life is What One Makes it. No Two Men Alike.” McLaren’s engagement with artmaking seems to have been almost serendipitous: “In the yard in which I was living, one day I took a bit of cardboard and pencil and started to draw the house, trees, fencing, etc. After showing it around, people praised it, so I was more interested and discovered that my mental faculties started to work by my concentrating on art. If it pleases the Lord, my desire is to go on drawing and painting until I can do no more.”

Stacy C. Hollander, "Artist at 84 Years Old," exhibition label for Jubilation|Rumination: Life, Real and Imagined. Stacy C. Hollander, curator. New York: American Folk Art Museum, 2012.


Artist at 84 Years Old
Date: 1979
Artist:
Dimensions: 15 3/4 × 13"
Materials: Oil on cardboard
Credit Line: Gift of Maurice C. and Patricia L. Thompson
Place/Region: Jamaica
Description: Painting depicts the bust of the artist against a green and floral background. The face, hair and neck are carefully painted, showing wrinkles and lines on the face of this venerable artist. His green shirt, trimmed in black, is more simply painted and the background is done flatly, in complete contrast to the face. Sydney McLaren began painting late in life. He came to national prominence in Jamaica in the early 1970's where his sparkling and intricate compositions of the streets of Kingston, Morant Bay and other Jamaican towns captured the attention of the National Museum of Art.
Accession Number: 2003.20.7
Sign on