Charles Searles

Charles Searles was born and raised in Philadelphia, where he studied art at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. He was passionate about African art and, after graduating, he was awarded the coveted Cresson Traveling Scholarship, which he used to travel to Nigeria, Ghana, Morocco, and other West African countries. He became an instructor at the Ile-Ife Black Humanitarian Center after returning to Philadelphia.

"An overarching sense of belonging... It felt like home,” Searles said of his experiences in Africa. He saw the Osogbo School's modern art, of which Twins Seven-Seven was a key figure, as a significant aesthetic influence, and Nigerian culture influenced the nature and tone of his work.

Searles' early works incorporate the lyrical motions, vibrant colors, and cacophony of patterns that he immersed himself in throughout his journeys. Later work evolved into carved and painted wooden shapes that preserved only the movement, rhythms, and palette that had become hallmarks of his Africa-inspired art.

Searles maintained a studio in New York after his time at Ile-Ife. He taught at the Philadelphia College of Art, (now University of the Arts), and other art schools. Until his death in 2004, he remained an active artist.
— Adapted from, accessed 7-23-2021

Artist Info


July 11 1937

Philadelphia, PA


November 27 2004

New York, NY






African American