Artists Past & Present

Featured Artist

Nancy Prophet Portrait Sculptor

Feature Image

Nancy Elizabeth Prophet, born March 19, 1890, to William H. Prophet and Rose Walker Prophet, in Warwick, Rhode Island, matured into a sculptural artist during the Harlem Renaissance.


In 1918, at the age of 24, Prophet, a high school graduate, enrolled in the Rhode Island School of Design in Providence, Rhode Island. While attending RISD, she married Francis Ford, whom she later divorced. Prophet began her studies in art, focusing on painting and drawing, especially portraiture.
She immediately began advertising her name in exhibits in Newport and New York. Prophet was not allowed to appear alongside her work due to the color of her skin-being of both African American and Narragansett Indian descent, gallery owners found her appearance "socially unacceptable". Taking a stand to this racial discrimination, Prophet refused to succumb to the times and denied galleries her artwork where she was not accepted.


Leaving behind the racial turmoil she faced in the United States, Prophet moved to Paris in 1922 to further study her newfound passion and claim the credit her work rightfully deserved. Prophet found her calling in marble sculptures of life-size faces that vividly portrayed various moods.


Returning to the United States in 1932, Prophet realized her work began gaining attention, proving that beyond her skin color was a true artist. She was invited to exhibit her art in galleries located in New York and Rhode Island.
Prophet moved her studies down to Atlanta, Georgia, and began a career as a professor teaching art students enrolled at both Atlanta University and Spelman College, in hopes of encouraging the creative minds of youth, the encouragement she was not presented with during her early years.


In 1945, Prophet returned to Rhode Island to escape the rejection she had once again faced in the south and attempted to regain her status as an artist. Due to lack of networking and contacts, her attempt proved dismal and Prophet was forced into domestic work. Nancy Elizabeth Prophet died in 1960.