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ca. 1940 William H. Johnson Born: Florence, South Carolina 1901 Died: Central Islip, New York 1970 oil on burlap 38 1/2 x 45 3/4 in. (97.8 x 116.2 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of the Harmon Foundation 1967.59.1002 Not currently on view

Exhibition Label

Sowing presents a simple narrative of farm life suggestive of Johnson's upbringing in South Carolina, but the brilliant palette disguises elements of tension. The plow the man grips is stained with red streaks of iron-suffused earth. The woman's hand is tightly clenched as she holds the seed above the soil before releasing it. A ghost moon in the sky hints at things both visible and unseen.

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


Animal - donkey

Ethnic - African-American

Figure group - male and female

Occupation - farm - sowing


paint - oil

fabric - burlap