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Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (work of art)

Información sobre la obra de arte

James Huff
61 1/4 x 40 inches (155.6 x 101.6 centimeters)


Purchased with funds from the State of North Carolina and the Museum Special Gift Fund

Número de objeto
Americana Carolina del Norte

Key Ideas

  • The overlapping images in this painting represent the past, present, and future. The same person is depicted at different ages. 
  • James Huff was an African American artist who lived and worked in Winston-Salem, NC. He painted detailed portraits of strong Black men. His paintings celebrate Black identity.
  • Huff won the NCMA’s yearly art competition with this painting in 1979.

Más información

The faces in this painting represent the same figure as a boy and as a man. The surrounding shapes and designs represent traditional African spiritual ceremonies. These layered images link the past (African traditions) to the present and future (African American progress). 

James Huff was a North Carolina-based artist whose portraits celebrate Black identity. Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow is intended to be a symbol of African American pride, celebration, and hope. It won first place in the NCMA’s 1979 art competition. Huff’s painting was the last entry on the final day of the contest. It was up against more than 2,500 other art submissions. 

Huff became the fifth African American artist with a work of art in the NCMA’s permanent collection. He advocated for museums and other art institutions to include more work by artists of color in their collections.

Recursos adicionales

Recursos para los profesores

  • Explore a website that includes articles about African American history in North Carolina.
  • Read an article about a photography project inspired by the African diaspora.
  • View a painting by Skunder Boghossian, an Ethiopian artist who taught James Huff.


Recursos para los estudiantes 


  • A painting in shades of black, brown, blue, red, and yellow that includes images of human faces, geometric shapes, and African masks. At the top left, a profile view of a face overlaps a larger profile view of a face.

    Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow