Blackberry Woman

  • Richmond Barthé, Blackberry Woman, modeled by 1930, cast 1932, bronze, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment, 2001.6

Execution Date
"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)

Blackberry Woman
modeled by 1930, cast 1932
On View
35 1/2 x 12 1/4 x 16 1/4 in. (90.1 x 31.1 x 41.3 cm)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment

Mediums Description
  • Object – other – basket
  • Ethnic – African-American
  • Figure female – full length
  • Occupation – domestic – gathering
Object Number
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI

More Artworks from the Collection