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Blind Musician

ca. 1940 William H. Johnson Born: Florence, South Carolina 1901 Died: Central Islip, New York 1970 oil on plywood 36 3/8 x 28 1/4 in. (92.2 x 71.6 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of the Harmon Foundation 1967.59.670 Smithsonian American Art Museum
Luce Foundation Center, 4th Floor, 31B

Luce Center Label

William H. Johnson’s paintings of African Americans were often based on scenes he remembered from his life in South Carolina and later in Harlem. Johnson may have based Blind Musician on such singers as Blind Boy Fuller, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, or the Reverend Gary Davis (Powell, Homecoming: The Art and Life of William H. Johnson, 1991). These performers attracted notice in the South and made their way to Chicago and New York City, where their recordings helped make the blues tradition familiar to mainstream audiences. The background of crosshatched lines signals that these itinerant musicians belong in no particular place, and must make their way with only their voices, guitar, and tambourine.


Ethnic - African-American

Figure group

Performing arts - music - guitar


paint - oil

wood - plywood