The Other Side of Color: African American Art in the Collection of Camille O. and William H. Cosby, Jr. 

This lavish, large scale publication was written by leading scholar of African American art, David Driskell and looked at African American Art in the Collection of Camille O. and William H. Cosby, Jr. Camille O. and William H. Cosby, Jr. each provided Introductions, and the artists’ biographies in The Other Side of Color were written by René Hanks. The book’s Foreword was written by Erika Ranee Cosby, and an Overview was provided by Daphne Driskell-Coles. Driskell’s text was divided into six sections, and Charles White appeared in Part Five, The New Black Image in American Art.

It is a measure of the calibre of White’s art that out of the nearly 50 leading artists represented in the publication, it was one of his pieces – Homage to Langston Hughes, oil on canvas, 48 x 48 inches – was selected for the cover. The painting was also reproduced, in full, on page 129. Charles White had had a long association with Bill Cosby, pointed to by the inclusion in The Other Side of Color of a full-page reproduction of Charles White’s drawing of Bill Cosby, Bill, 1968, charcoal on artist’s board, 57 x 33 ¼ inches. In her Introduction, Camille O. Cosby pointed to the significance of the Cosby’s relationship with White: “…On September 8, 1967, Bill and I purchased our first African American artwork, a Chinese ink and charcoal drawing by Charles White titled Nude. Twelve days later we bought another Charles White Chinese ink and charcoal drawing titled Cathedral of Life, and in 1969 we acquired Seed of Heritage. Eventually we acquired eighteen of Charles White’s works, all from the Heritage Gallery in Los Angeles, California. During the same year Bull commissioned Mr. white to create his portrait. Mr. White’s depiction of Bill is unlike any other that I have seen; amazingly, Mr. White captured Bill’s seriousness and complexities. Indeed, this portrait is my favorite Charles White drawing.” 

In her Foreword, Erika Ranee Cosby, daughter of Camille O. and William H. Cosby, Jr., continued the reflections on White’s portrait, Bill. “The subjects in Charles White’s works have souls that live and grow and change over time. I believe this to be one of a few key factors separating good art from great art. One last example of White’s exceptional talent is the portrait he did of my father in 1968. Many people who viewed this work thought it was not an accurate likeness. Some didn’t like it and said it made my father look too serious. As a kid, I always thought that the head was rendered too small for Dad’s exaggerated powerful shoulders. But my mother always loved that portrait. It remains her favorite, and she proudly displays it in her favorite room. Mom recently revealed to me that White perceived a part of Dad that she had always known, the private, more serious side of the man revered for his humor. I believe this is the only portrait ever done of my father that presents another side of him. Those of us who know him as a son, husband, father, and close friend know him not only as a person with an amazing talent to make the world laugh, but also as a man with a deep, compassionate, and contemplative soul. Charles White captured that soul.”

There were six reproductions of White’s work in The Other Side of Color, a number of which were full page. Driskell’s text on White was a particularly useful summary, which included, “Many of White’s works – more than twenty in the Cosby Collection of Fine Arts – were created during the height of the civil rights movement in the 1960s.” René Hanks’ biographical summary was similarly useful and succinct. Perhaps as much as anything else, The Other Side of Color located White’s work within a broader context of African American art from the mid to late 18th century to the early 21st century.

The book was published by Pomegranate in 2001.