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Li'L Sis

1944 William H. Johnson Born: Florence, South Carolina 1901 Died: Central Islip, New York 1970 oil on paperboard 26 x 21 1/4 in. (66.1 x 54.0 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of the Harmon Foundation 1967.59.1023 Not currently on view

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The little girl in this portrait holds a flyswatter, ready to wave away any insects from the baby in her charge. The scumbled yellow background emphasizes the child’s dark skin and focuses our attention on her stalwart pose and grave eyes. William H. Johnson returned to his hometown of Florence, South Carolina, in 1944 to reacquaint himself with his family and to paint scenes from the community he grew up in. The younger children did not know Johnson, however, and his unpredictable behavior and short temper may account for the girl’s uneasy but resolute expression.


Ethnic - African-American

Object - toy - doll

Portrait female - Brown, Ernestine - child


paint - oil