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Blackberry Woman

modeled by 1930, cast 1932 Richmond Barthé Born: Bay St. Louis, Mississippi 1901 Died: Pasadena, California 1989 bronze 35 1/2 x 12 1/4 x 16 1/4 in. (90.1 x 31.1 x 41.3 cm) Smithsonian American Art Museum Museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment 2001.6 Smithsonian American Art Museum
Luce Foundation Center, 3rd Floor, W310

Luce Center Quote

"When I was crawling on the floor, my mother gave me paper and pencil to play with. It kept me quiet while she did her errands." Richmond Barthé, quoted in Bearden and Henderson, A History of African-American Artists: From 1972 to the Present, 1993

Exhibition Label

The angular grace of Blackberry Woman speaks of stoicism and constancy. The subject – an African American woman in a simple dress who is balancing a basket on her head – is one Barthé may well have seen on market day as a boy growing up in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. But she is more than an echo of an image once observed. She has the frontal, linear form found in West African sculpture, which Barthé first saw in Chicago, in an exhibition during “The Negro in Art Week” in November 1927, when he was a student at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

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

Luce Center Label

Richmond Barthé took the title Blackberry Woman from Wallace Thurman's 1929 book, The Blacker the Berry: A Novel of Negro Life, a story of the discrimination against dark-skinned women within the African American community. The woman's bare feet, simple cotton dress, and thatched baskets evoke the extreme poverty of Barthé's youth in rural Mississippi where he often saw black women carrying bundles on their heads. (Vendryes, Expression and Repression of Identity: Race, Religion and Sexuality in the Art of American Sculptor Richmond Barthé, PhD diss., Princeton, 1997)


Ethnic - African-American

Figure female - full length

Object - other - basket

Occupation - domestic - gathering


About Richmond Barthé

Born: Bay St. Louis, Mississippi 1901 Died: Pasadena, California 1989