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Shotgun, Third Ward #1

1966 John Biggers Born: Gastonia, North Carolina 1924 Died: Houston, Texas 2001 tempera and oil on canvas 30 x 48 in. (76.2 x 121.9 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Museum purchase made possible by Anacostia Museum, Smithsonian Institution 1987.56.1 Smithsonian American Art Museum
1st Floor, South Wing

Exhibition Label

Shotgun, Third Ward #1 is an image of strength and resilience in the face of loss. Children play in a water-soaked street, oblivious to the tragedy of the burned out church behind them. Adults look away, avoiding one another's eyes and the spectacle of the still-smoldering structure. A rash of church bombings in the early 1960s may have been the initial prompt for this painting. But rather than create an image of outrage, Biggers affirmed the sustaining values of faith, heritage, and community through symbolism: the wheel in the air at the upper right edge summons the biblical story of Ezekiel, while the grey-haired woman in red is an emblem of constancy and wisdom.

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


Architecture - religious - church

Cityscape - street

Disaster - fire

Ethnic - African-American

Figure group

History - United States - Black History


paint - oil

paint - tempera

fabric - canvas