DIGITAL TOUR: Jerry Pinkney: Imaginings

Their Eyes Were Watching God (1991)

Music Credit:
My Man’s Gone Now
Miles Davis
Album: Porgy and Bess
Written By: George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin & D. Heyward

Their Eyes Were Watching God, published in 1937, is the best-known work of African American writer Zora Neale Hurston (1891–1960). The novel traces Janie Crawford’s “ripening from a vibrant but voiceless teenage girl into a woman with her finger on the trigger of her own destiny.” Set in central and southern Florida in the early twentieth century, the novel was initially poorly received for its rejection of racial uplift, a literary prescription of the time. Today, it is regarded as a seminal work, and is included in TIMEmagazine’s list of the one hundred best English language novels published since 1923. The artist sought to capture the essence of Southern life in his imagery, as in this piece, which portrays local citizens effusively sharing stories on the porch of the general store.

After reading Their Eyes Were Watching God, Jerry Pinkney cast his characters with family and friends, including his daughter Troy, who stepped into the role of Janie. After creating initial sketches to establish the action and composition for each piece, he photographed his models, coaching them as they acted out each scene. His photographs were taken with a Polaroid camera, which allowed him quick access to visual reference.

Untitled (1991)
Untitled (1991)
Photo reference for Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
University of Illinois Press
Pencil and wash on paper – Collection of the artist
Untitled (1991)
Untitled (1991)
Study for Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
University of Illinois Press
Pencil and wash on paper – Collection of the artist
Untitled (1991)
Untitled (1991)
Study for Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
University of Illinois Press
Pencil and wash on paper – Collection of the artist
Untitled (1991)
Untitled (1991)
Photo reference for Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
University of Illinois Press
Pencil and wash on paper – Collection of the artist
Untitled (1991)
Untitled (1991)
Study for Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
University of Illinois Press
Ink on paper – Collection of the artist
Untitled (1991)
Untitled (1991)
Study for Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
University of Illinois Press
Ink on paper – Collection of the artist
Untitled (1991)
Untitled (1991)
Study for Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
University of Illinois Press
Pencil and wash on paper – Collection of the artist
Untitled (1991)
Untitled (1991)
Photo reference for Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
University of Illinois Press
Pencil and wash on paper – Collection of the artist
Untitled (1991)
Untitled (1991)
Photo reference for Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
University of Illinois Press
Pencil and wash on paper – Collection of the artist
Untitled (1991)
Untitled (1991)
Study for Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
University of Illinois Press
Ink on paper – Collection of the artist
They Huddled Closer and Stared at the Door (1991)
They Huddled Closer and Stared at the Door (1991)
Photo reference for Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
University of Illinois Press
Pencil and wash on paper – Collection of the artist
They Huddled Closer and Stared at the Door (1991)
They Huddled Closer and Stared at the Door (1991)
Illustration for Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
University of Illinois Press
Pencil and wash on paper – Collection of the artist
For a long time she sat rocking with the girl held to her sunken breast
For a Long Time She Sat Rocking with the Girl
Held to Her Sunken Breast
 (1991)
Study for Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
University of Illinois Press
Ink on paper – Collection of the artist
For a long time she sat rocking with the girl held to her sunken breast
For a Long Time She Sat Rocking with the Girl
Held to Her Sunken Breast
 (1991)
Illustration for Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
University of Illinois Press
Pencil and wash on paper – Collection of the artist
Untitled (1991)
Untitled (1991)
Photo reference for Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
University of Illinois Press
Pencil and wash on paper – Collection of the artist
Untitled (1991)
Untitled (1991)
Illustration for Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
University of Illinois Press
Pencil and wash on paper – Collection of the artist
Untitled (1991)
Untitled (1991)
Photo reference for Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
University of Illinois Press
Pencil and wash on paper – Collection of the artist
Untitled (1991)
Untitled (1991)
Illustration for Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
University of Illinois Press
Pencil and wash on paper – Collection of the artist
Untitled (1991)
Untitled (1991)
Illustration for Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
University of Illinois Press
Pencil and wash on paper – Collection of the artist
2017-03-01T11:38:09+00:00