Portraits of American Musical Legends

February 14, 2019 - April 26, 2019

Ethel Waters was at the peak of her singing career when artist Luigi Lucioni painted her portrait in 1939. His striking portrait of the star was met with critical acclaim, winning first prize at the 1939 Carnegie International Exposition. Waters also appreciated the portrait on a personal level and purchased it from the artist. In this small exhibition, Waters’ portrait is presented with five photographs from the permanent collection of the Birmingham Museum of Art. Together these works offer a glimpse of the range of representations of African American musicians and performance spaces created from the 1930s to the 1950s.

To hear the voices of the musicians in the exhibition, visit our smartguide at and type in this three digit number: 198.

The Birmingham Museum of Art is grateful to the Huntsville Museum of Art and its executive director Christopher J. Madkour for making this important loan possible.