Ralph Ellison was passionately interested in visual arts. He immersed himself in Harlem's art scene in the 1930s, even apprenticing with sculptor Richmond Barthe for a time. Yet he was wary of projects aiming to provide a visual rendering of his novel Invisible Man. He reluctantly allowed Franklin Library to publish two illustrated versions of the novel but found the results disappointing and repeatedly rejected proposed film versions of the book. Despite his involvement in visual arts, Ellison insisted that only language could capture the complexity of American identity. This complexity consisted of the tension arising from the collision of the United States' written ideals, as outlined in the founding documents, and the historical and contemporary experience molding the national consciousness.