Larger Type
Smaller Type

Search Collections


ca. 1930-1935 Sargent Johnson Born: Boston, Massachusetts 1887 Died: San Francisco, California 1967 copper on wood base 15 1/2 x 13 1/2 x 6 in. (39.4 x 34.3 x 15.3 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of International Business Machines Corporation 1966.27.4 Smithsonian American Art Museum
1st Floor, South Wing

Exhibition Label

Johnson learned to work copper sheet metal in the 1920s as an assistant in the studio of the sculptor Beniamino Bufano, one of his instructors at the California School of the Fine Arts in San Francisco. The stylized oval of the face, generous lips, and wide nose reflect Johnson's aim to show the "pure American Negro." He said he wanted to depict the "natural beauty and dignity in that characteristic lip, that characteristic hair, bearing and manner." With Mask, Johnson situated the image of the black face within a dialogue about race taking place among Alain Locke, W.E.B. Du Bois, and Langston Hughes and other poets and intellectuals of the Harlem Renaissance.

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


Ethnic - African-American

Figure female - head


metal - copper