Speed Cinema To Screen “Master of Light” And Q&A With Black Classical Oil Painter George Anthony Morton

Apr 14, 2023 at 3:57 pm
Speed Cinema To Screen “Master of Light” And Q&A With Black Classical Oil Painter George Anthony Morton

Speed Cinema (2035 S 3rd St.) will screen “Master of Light,” a documentary about classical American Black artist and oil painter George Anthony Morton, at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, April 16. The film, directed by Rosa Ruth Boesten, follows Morton’s artistic journey from his time in prison for dealing drugs to his later efforts at mending family relationships upon his release. While incarcerated, Morton began to explore his artistic gifts; he began with drawing, then progressed to honing his skills as a painter. “By painting, it gave him access to negotiate moving to a lower security prison in which he would be in less danger,” Speed Art Museum Film Curator Dean Otto told LEO during a phone interview. “He spent a pretty significant amount of time in a high security prison. Art helped to ‘save’ him.” Upon his release in his hometown of Kansas City, Missouri, Morton visited the Nelson-Atkins Museum and became inspired by the works of Old Dutch Master painters.

“In seeing the paintings ‘out there,’ he saw very few people who looked like him or his family. He began painting and copying that style. Many times, artists go into museums and copy the artwork, and that is where he got a great deal of his inspiration,” said Otto.

At the encouragement of several friends, Morton applied to art schools. He studied at the Florence Academy of Art and worked in Rembrandt’s studio in Amsterdam. Morton’s growing frustration with the Eurocentric figures in historic paintings led him to question why there were not more depictions of Black people in these celebrated works. He was determined to shift this dynamic.

In part driven by passion and partly to mend broken relationships, Morton returned to his hometown of Kansas City and began painting his mother and other family members in the style of Old Dutch Masters.

“Primarily, the work was focused on upending the historical art model, with most of the subjects of those paintings being all white men and women,” said Otto

“Master of Light” reflects this sentiment. The free, 83-minute screening will be followed by an audience Q&A with Morton.