David Driskell (1931-2020) was one of the most influential American artists of the 20th and 21st century, known for his powerful portrayals of African American people and the impact they had on the development of the American cultural landscape. After traveling to Africa in the 1960s, Driskell developed a deep passion for African artistic traditions and began to intertwine them with his own modernist style. Driskell was particularly known for expertise in bringing subjects to life through the use of bold, symbolic lines and vibrant colors. He once explained the driving force behind his artistic career, saying “I was looking for a body of work which showed first of all that blacks had been stable participants in American visual culture for more than 200 years, and by stable participants I simply mean that in many cases they had been the backbone”(Driskell, 1977).
Driskell was ultimately credited with the establishment of African American art as its own unique field of study. Due to his unprecedented contributions to the field of African American art, the High Museum of Art created the David C. Driskell prize, which was designed to honor those who were following in similar footsteps.