Special mention of Porterís adeptness at depicting particular racial types was noted by Adelyn D.Breskin, the young director of the Baltimore Museum of Art, in 1947, when a select number of Porterís paintings were assembled for a showing at the Howard University Gallery of Art on his return from his 1945-46 sabbatical year of painting in Cuba and Haiti. In her introduction to the modest catalog that accompanied the exhibition, Breskin cited Porterís eminence as a writer and lecturer before commenting on the strength of his recent work, much of which combined a salient view of Caribbean culture with his extensive knowledge of the history of African people in the diaspora.

     The most impressive work in the 1947 exhibition was a very well-crafted oil composition executed in 1946 entitled "In a Cuban Bus." Some have called it the most successful genre painting done by Porter during his entire creative career. Music is the central subject of "In a Cuban Bus," yet two people dominate the vertical design that Porter has chosen to emphasize. Not readily felt, when viewing the work, is the fact that an interior view from inside a crowded urban bus scene can be the ideal place for a very keen observer like Porter to scrutinize the true version of social manners that people practice. The passenger in the foreground holds a gamecock in his left hand while a musician playing the guitar stands behind stroking away at a tune in the same manner that one sees Black musicians in the genre scenes of nineteenth-century American genre painter William Sidney Mount. But Porterís composition is action-filled and is somewhat of a commentary on the harmony with which people of different races live 



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February 2001