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Self-Portrait

1934 Malvin Gray Johnson Born: Greensboro, North Carolina 1896 Died: New York, New York 1934 oil on canvas 38 1/4 x 30 in. (97.2 x 76.2 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of the Harmon Foundation 1967.57.30 Not currently on view


Exhibition Label

The compressed space in Self-Portrait speaks to Johnson's profound awareness of modernist compositional devices. The easel at the left side of the canvas identifies him as an artist, and the masks in the background make an assertive statement about his African American heritage. In 1934, the year he painted his self-portrait, Johnson joined the ranks of the Public Works of Art Project, the first of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal art programs, which paid artists a monthly stipend. Although the job lasted only six months, Johnson was finally able to paint full time. Ironically, the year proved to be Johnson's most prolific but also the last of his short life.

African American Art: Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era, and Beyond, 2012
 

 

 

 

Keywords

Ethnic - African-American

Figure(s) in interior

Miscellaneous - art allusion - African mask

Occupation - art - painter

Portrait male - Johnson, Malvin Gray - self-portrait

painting

paint - oil

fabric - canvas