William R. Hollingsworth, Jr. was an artist whose identity and production was deeply connected to his home state of Mississippi and to picturing Southern life. Born in Jackson, he attended the University of Mississippi in 1928 and 1929. He then enrolled at the Art Institute of Chicago, where he developed an interest in commercial art, illustration, and painting before graduating in 1934. Eager to remain in Chicago, he attempted to find work, but found the Depression economy left him without gainful employment. This turn of events forced Hollingsworth's return to Jackson; there, he was able to secure a salaried government job while pursuing his artistic endeavors in his free time.
By 1937, Hollingsworth began to achieve modest success, which further fueled his desire to be a professional artist. He left his office job in 1938 and devoted himself to painting and to writing on art. During the early 1940s, he won more awards and reached the creative apex in his career. Hollingsworth established an art department at Millsaps College, where he served as an instructor from 1941 to 1943. Throughout his life, however, Hollingsworth was troubled by anxiety and depression. Prone to deep emotional responses-both highs and lows-the artist succumbed to despondency and took his own life in 1944 at the age of thirty-four.
Hollingsworth appears to have found the greatest joy in life from his work as an artist. While he was versatile in his output, his oeuvre was dominated by genre scenes of everyday life in the South, showing industrial as well as pastoral locales. Inclined toward African American subjects, he was progressive in discovering the rich source of imagery in segregated black society and culture. A particularly able draftsman who preferred working directly from his subject, Hollingsworth excelled at portraits and was a prolific sketcher of heads. He was also a gifted caricaturist, capturing the unique qualities in a likeness, as in Portrait of a Man, Jackson, Mississippi. This drawing reveals an undertone of sad beauty that characterizes most of Hollingsworth's art.
Brewer, Philip L., M.D., Spot: Southern Works on Paper (2008; Charleston: Hicklin Galleries, LLC/The Charleston Renaissance Gallery),.
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