Smithsonian American Art MuseumSection title

38 of 81
Previous | Next

William H. Johnson

Ezekiel Saw the Wheel
about 1943
tempera and pen and ink with pencil
18 x 13 1/2 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Harmon Foundation

William H. Johnson’s rendition of Ezekiel Saw the Wheel is based on a classic Negro spiritual. The figure’s raised arms and genuflecting posture communicate the religious supplication and spiritual ecstasy of a revelatory moment when the sun and the moon appear simultaneously in the sky. Two wheels spin magically amidst the repeated circular forms that echo the song’s repetitive phrasing. The simplicity of the forms and bright colors enhance the emotional intensity of Ezekiel’s religious experience.