Blind Musician

Media - 1967.59.670 - SAAM-1967.59.670_2 - 136716
Copied William H. Johnson, Blind Musician, ca. 1940, oil on plywood, 36 3828 14 in. (92.271.6 cm.), Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Harmon Foundation, 1967.59.670

Artwork Details

Blind Musician
ca. 1940
36 3828 14 in. (92.271.6 cm.)
Credit Line
Gift of the Harmon Foundation
Mediums Description
oil on plywood
  • Figure group
  • African American
  • Performing arts — music — guitar
Object Number

Artwork Description

William H. Johnson’s paintings of African Americans were often based on scenes he remembered from his life in South Carolina and later in Harlem. Johnson may have based Blind Musician on such singers as Blind Boy Fuller, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, or the Reverend Gary Davis (Powell, Homecoming: The Art and Life of William H. Johnson, 1991). These performers attracted notice in the South and made their way to Chicago and New York City, where their recordings helped make the blues tradition familiar to mainstream audiences. The background of crosshatched lines signals that these itinerant musicians belong in no particular place, and must make their way with only their voices, guitar, and tambourine.