Blackberry Woman

Copied Richmond Barthé, Blackberry Woman, modeled by 1930, cast 1932, bronze, 35 1212 1416 14 in. ( cm), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment, 2001.6

Artwork Details

Blackberry Woman
modeled by 1930, cast 1932
Not on view
35 1212 1416 14 in. ( cm)
Credit Line
Museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment
Mediums Description
  • African American
  • Figure female — full length
  • Occupation — domestic — gathering
  • Object — other — basket
Object Number

Artwork Description

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)