Really Free: The Radical Art of Nellie Mae Rowe


Really Free: The Radical Art of Nellie Mae Rowe


Untitled (Purple Fish)

A large purple fish floats within a rich red background surrounded by black plantlike depictions.

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Object Details


Nellie Mae Rowe, American, 1900–1982




Crayon, gouache, and pencil on paper


27 1/2 x 32 3/4 inches


Gift of Judith Alexander

Accession #


Image Copyright

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


The fish was another commonly featured animal in the art of Nellie Mae Rowe. Rowe was a devout Christian, so the fish may symbolize her dedication as a follower of Christ. The fullness of Rowe’s fish might also refer to pregnancy and procreation, in accordance to the Mandé creation myth of southern Mali in which the ancient cosmos birthed twin fish. Although she had no children, she was very fond of them, and often called her handmade dolls her children.