Chain Gang

  • William H. Johnson, Chain Gang, ca. 1939, oil on plywood, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Harmon Foundation, 1967.59.675

Luce Center Label

In this painting, enormous hands hold scythes, pickaxes, and shovels, symbolizing the brutal work of the chain gang. Johnson may have seen men like this when he was a child in South Carolina, but he might also have chosen this subject while working for the Works Progress Administration, where archivists worked to preserve the stories and songs of the gangs.

Title
Chain Gang
Artist
Date
ca. 1939
On View
Dimensions
45 3/4 x 38 1/2 in. (116.2 x 97.7 cm.)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gift of the Harmon Foundation

Mediums
Mediums Description
oil on plywood
Classifications
Keywords
  • State of being – evil – imprisonment
  • Occupation – crime
  • Ethnic – African-American
  • Landscape – road
  • Figure group
Object Number
1967.59.675
Palette
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI

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