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Portrait of a Man

ca. 1935-1938 William H. Johnson Born: Florence, South Carolina 1901 Died: Central Islip, New York 1970 oil on burlap 28 1/8 x 23 in. (71.4 x 58.5 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of the Harmon Foundation 1967.59.814 Smithsonian American Art Museum
Luce Foundation Center, 4th Floor, 30B

Luce Center Label

The moody colors and looping brushstrokes of thick paint link Portrait of a Man to the landscapes that William H. Johnson painted in Norway during a long trip through Scandinavia. With his jug ears and knobby red nose, this man is almost a caricature, but Johnson did not intend to satirize his subjects. He was determined to capture what he called the “essential characteristics” of his sitters, people whose faces and bodies had been shaped by the struggle to survive in a harsh environment. Here, the man’s white hair and shirtfront contrast with the darker hue of his vest and the Nordic, cobalt blue of his eyes.


Portrait male - unidentified - elderly


paint - oil

fabric - burlap