Archibald John Motley Jr., Nightlife

Archibald Motley dedicated his career to depicting the lively world of Black neighborhoods. His work Nightlife (1943) is a 36″ X 47¾” oil-on-canvas painting created during America’s involvement in World War II. During this time, racist connotations were rarely absent from the depictions of African Americans in popular culture, and Motley focused on Black subjects in elegant portraits that conveyed power and self-agency. During his career, he masterfully used both color and composition to express a sense of energy and spirits, and he focused in particular on light and color. Learn more about this masterpiece, the inspiring artist and his brilliant use of color with James Rondeau, President and Eloise W. Martin Director of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Cite this page as: Bank of America, "Archibald John Motley Jr., Nightlife," in Smarthistory, February 21, 2022, accessed October 2, 2022,