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100 Highlights
of the MFAH
Take a tour through some of the most significant objects in the MFAH collections. On these pages, you can browse 100 highlights from collections throughout the institution. Then visit the Museum in person to discover your own favorites.
© John T. Biggers Estate/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY
American, 1924 - 2001
The Cradle
Conté crayon on paper

22 3/8 x 21 1/2 inches

The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

25th Annual Houston Artists Exhibition, museum purchase prize, 1950

Arts of North America

John Biggers came to Houston in 1949 to establish an art department for Texas Southern University. With his presentation of The Cradle at the annual Houston Artists Exhibition at the MFAH the following year, he became one of the leading figures of Houston’s growing art scene.

Perhaps more than any artist of his generation, Biggers had a profound influence on shaping the history and identity of Houston as he steadily gained national recognition and acclaim. Over a career spanning more than five decades, he created a body of paintings, drawings, prints, and sculpture that is without parallel. His early paintings charted African American folkways and history. Following a UNESCO-sponsored trip to Ghana, Togo, and the Republic of Benin in 1957, he created groundbreaking murals that introduced an Africa unfamiliar to most Americans. In the 1970s and 1980s, his compositions achieved a remarkable synthesis of personal experience and ancestral memory.

The Cradle is typical of the compassionate vision Biggers brought to his early work, expressing his sympathy for the downtrodden and poor. He returned to the image of the mother and child many times, always celebrating the love and strength of women in all walks of life.