Really Free: The Radical Art of Nellie Mae Rowe


Really Free: The Radical Art of Nellie Mae Rowe


Untitled (Figures with Cats)

Various, small, jewel-colored figures against a white background; five cats: black, green, red, blue and pink, with three whimsical human figures, and small blue rabbit bottom center.

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Object Details


Nellie Mae Rowe, American, 1900–1982




Crayon and marker on paper


18 3/4 x 24 inches


Gift of Judith Alexander

Accession #


Image Copyright

© Estate of Nellie Mae Rowe/High Museum of Art, Atlanta.


Rowe celebrated the animals she spent time with on her family’s farm as well as fantastic specimens from her imagination. Dogs and fish appear most frequently throughout her art, taking on symbolic meaning. Fish, for instance, resonated with Rowe’s Christian faith and with her unfulfilled wish for children, as dreams of fish are thought to precede pregnancy in some African American folklore. Rowe did not keep her own dogs, but she included many toy versions throughout her art environment, where they provided her with joy and perhaps embodied protection and companionship.