Norman Wilfred Lewis (July 23, 1909 – August 27, 1979) was an American painter, scholar, and teacher. Lewis, who was African-American (of Bermudian descent), was associated with abstract expressionism, and used representational strategies to focus on black urban life and his community’s struggles.
He also painted social realism, painting with “an overtly figurative style, depicting bread lines, evictions, and police brutality.”
Lewis said he struggled to express social conflict in his art, but in his later years, focused on the inherently aesthetic. “The goal of the artist must be aesthetic development,” he told art historian Kellie Jones, “and in a universal sense, to make in his own way some contribution to culture.”
Norman Lewis was the only African- American artist among the first generation of abstract expressionists; his work was overlooked by both White and African-American art dealers and gallery owners. He did not fit into either category perfectly. As was recently noted in a catalogue accompanying a major retrospective of Lewis’s paintings this omission seem clear enough. His work was overlooked many times because of his political involvement, and also because of the area where he lived. His skin colour at this time period had a major impact on his work life.