Sunday, April 17, 2016

Prince Hall for American Legacy Magazine


American Legacy Magazine


A full-page illustration for a feature article on Prince Hall, who, in 1784, was one of the founding members of the first African-American Freemasonry order.


Create a beautiful, accurate, historical portrait of Mr. Hall, with the stateliness of “one of the first black organizers, in American history,” according to the feature article.

On the eve of the Revolutionary War, Prince Hall, and fourteen free black men, risked their lives, and their freedom, by taking a boat to the enemy’s fort, at the entrance to the Boson Harbor, in an attempt to join Freemasonry. After being rejected by colonial Freemasonry, these men, determined to join, were accepted by the Grand Lodge of Ireland, Lodge No. 441, on March 6, 1775. After the British evacuated Boston, the African-American Masons were left without a lodge. The departing Irish soldiers gave these Masons a permit to meet as African Lodge No. 1. However, without a lodge, this permit provided limited provisions. A petition for lodge was sent to the Lodge of England. In 1784, the petition was granted, and African Lodge No. 459 was founded — the first African-American fraternal order, with Prince Hall as its leader.

Today, the nationwide branch of African-American Freemasonry is named Prince Hall Freemasonry, in his honor.


The direction would be a head and shoulders portrait with the Masonic symbol, behind. My task, now, would be to gather reference, showing what the man may have looked like. There is a bit of leeway, when it comes to historical figures, for whom no good reference exists. No one is around to dispute. I also needed to be sure and gather historically-accurate clothing and hair styles. This includes general Revolutionary-era attire and powdered wigs.

The Freemasonry symbol is the square and compass. As with many aspects of Freemasonry, these items are rooted in symbolism. There are no concrete, consistent meanings, behind them, however, they are, often, to be reflective of lessons in conduct. The square is to remind members to square their actions and the compass is to remind members of their bounds with all of mankind. The letter, “G,” is often found, in the center of the logo. It is generally believed to represent God.


I provided 4 options, in various configurations.


My client chose sketch #3.

My sketches are based on other sketchy artistic renderings. So, a photo shoot was in order. Matthew was my subject and a combination of a nondescript sweater and a Revolutionary War-era costume from the costume shop, was our wardrobe.

This is the photo composite reference I used for the final art...

Acrylic paint with Photoshop is my medium, of choice, for color work.

Unfortunately, the illustration did not see publication, as the magazine, unexpectedly, went through some restructuring. However, Prince Hall is still a popular figure and the illustration has taken on a life of its own, since its creation:

• It was accepted to Illustration West 50 annual and exhibition, in 2012, sponsored by the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles.

• As mentioned, there are not many depictions of Mr. Hall, and those that exist are not very detailed. As a result, it caught the eye of the leader of a California Freemasonry Lodge who licensed it as part of Prince Hall Day, at their Lodge.

• It will also be seen at the Minnesota Masonic Heritage Center, in Bloomington, MN, as part of an educational exhibit.

My thanks to the folks at American Legacy Magazine for the opportunity to learn more about Prince Hall and to bring him to life, in this way.

Allan Burch is an award-winning illustrator and portrait artist, providing solutions for editorial, book, advertising, and institutional projects.
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