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Marian Anderson

ca. 1945 William H. Johnson Born: Florence, South Carolina 1901 Died: Central Islip, New York 1970 oil on paperboard 35 5/8 x 28 7/8 in. (90.4 x 73.2 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of the Harmon Foundation 1967.59.657 Smithsonian American Art Museum
Luce Foundation Center, 4th Floor, 32A

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Marian Anderson

Luce Center Quote

“I said yes, but the yes did not come easily or quickly . . . As I thought further, I could see that my significance as an individual was small in this affair. I had become, whether I like it or not, a symbol, representing my people.” Marian Anderson

Luce Center Label

In 1939, opera singer Marian Anderson was barred by the Daughters of the American Revolution from performing in Washington’s Constitution Hall. Eleanor Roosevelt intervened, and Anderson was invited to sing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. She sang on Easter Sunday, April 9th, before an audience of seventy-five thousand people, while millions more listened on the radio. William H. Johnson painted the event some years later, and the European flags and landmarks surrounding the central figure show that the artist recognized the parallels between Anderson’s career and his own. Like Johnson, Anderson had sought her opportunities abroad, performing for audiences in Scandinavia just when Johnson and his wife were traveling in Norway and Sweden. Painter and singer alike had enjoyed greater freedom in Europe’s capitals than they experienced in the United States, where they had seen their professional standing compromised by racial attitudes.


Architecture Exterior - civic - Eiffel Tower

Architecture Exterior - civic - Lincoln Memorial

Architecture Exterior - civic - White House

Architecture - religious - church

Object - other - flag

Performing arts - music - voice

Portrait female - Anderson, Marian - full length

Portrait female - Roosevelt, Eleanor


paint - oil