Charles Lilly

CHARLES LILLY WAS BORN AND RAISED in New York City. A graduate of the School of Visual Arts (where his son attended on a full scholarship and obtained his Masters), Lilly has vigorously pursued his craft. Besides creating fine arts projects, Lilly has worked as a commercial artist, an art teacher/instructor, a photographer’s assistant, a guest lecturer, an entrepreneur and a community activist.

During his lengthy career, Lilly would paint a huge assortment of “people, places and things.” His most memorable works include: “Malcolm X,” 1973, originally pained for Encore Magazine, which became the well-known cover of the book, The Autobiography of Malcolm X, by Alex Haley; and “Hannibal” for Budweiser’s Great Kings of Africa series in 1979. His work, “Crispus Attucks” was featured on the cover of Crisis Magazine/NAACP, February 1999; and he designed the cover of Dr. Molefi Kete Assante’s book, African American History 2002, A Journey of Liberation, published by the People Publishing Group in New Jersey. Lilly’s work deals primarily with the human figure in a narrative context. He approaches the concerns of contemporary subjects on the foundation of traditional painting and drawing principles, with an African American sensibility.


“From my earliest surviving drawing at age 6, until my latest present day work, one thing has been clear . . . I have always been an artist.”


Lilly has exhibited throughout the country, notably: the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York; the Miami, Dade County Cultural Center Library; the Hawaii Public Library; the Kennedy Center, Dallas, Texas; DuSable Museum, Chicago; and Hampton University, Virginia. He was commissioned by the Langston Hughes Community Library & Cultural Center in New York to paint “Langston Hughes” (1994), which remains on permanent display at the Library.

His clients include private collectors as well as corporations and institutions such as: ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, United Artist, 20th Century Fox, Columbia Pictures, PepsiCo, Miller Brewing Co., AT & T, Bank of New York, Congressional Black Caucus, Avon Books, Doubleday Books, Playboy Magazine, United Negro College Fund, NAACP/Crisis Magazine, and Redbook. He has won prestigious awards from the Society of Illustrators Annual National Exhibition, the Art Director’s Club, the AD & Copy Club, the Society of Publication designers, and received four CEBA Awards for excellence. Lilly was also awarded the Arts Achievement Award from Helen Marshall, Queens Borough President, in New York City.

Lilly says “From my earliest surviving drawing at age 6, until my latest present day work, one thing has been clear . . . I have always been an artist. I am currently turning my focus to fine arts and plan to create a new series of works called “Black Life in America,” which will chronicle the ordinary every day existence of an extraordinary people, from coast-to-coast. It is my intention that when a child or an adult visit a museum, they will be able to see realistic oil painted documents of African Americans that will depict ‘our’ contributions in American society.”

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