Equally adept at printmaking and sculpture, Elizabeth Catlett (1915–2012) was a figurative artist working to represent the lives of African-Americans in the 20th century. She believed the print medium enabled her to reach wider audiences, and her works spanned screenprinting, woodcut, lithography, and linocut techniques.
Catlett was accepted to the Carnegie Institute of Technology, but the offer was retracted when they realised she was black. She went on to graduate from Howard University in 1937. During her MA studies at the University of Iowa, she was influenced by her tutor, Grant Wood, who encouraged her to draw inspiration from her own experiences. From this point, she began to depict powerful images of black women and children.
Her training continued when she moved to Mexico in 1946. As an artist with an interest in social issues, the move was a logical step. There she worked with other socially-conscious artists including Diego Rivera and Francisco Mora, whom she married. Her work is significant in its representation of notable and everyday black figures. She equally held up images of the black mother alongside images of powerful leaders like Harriet Tubman. This serves to share a wider breadth of the female African-American experience.