Really Free: The Radical Art of Nellie Mae Rowe


Really Free: The Radical Art of Nellie Mae Rowe


Untitled (Something that Ain’t Been Born Yet)

Sketch of a creature in graphite pencil and red colored pencil with front-facing eyes and nose, with a blue flower to the left and uncolored flower in lower left.

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Object Details


Nellie Mae Rowe, American, 1900–1982




Crayon and pencil on ledger paper


14 x 9 inches


Gift of Judith Alexander

Accession #


Image Copyright

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


For inspiration, Rowe tapped into her subconscious in ways that the Surrealists had given credence to decades earlier, copying visions as she remembered them from her dreams and engaging in automatic drawing. As she described it, “I may make a start with a straight mark, and it will come to me what I want to make.” The way she followed her line into mysterious forms, testing whether they could become a tree, an animal, an elaborately dressed person, can be seen clearly in these two works, one an early experiment and the other a dramatically more detailed—but no less fluid—composition.